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Indian White-backed Vulture Picture

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The Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. It is closely related to the European Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). At one time it was believed to be even closer to the White-backed Vulture; its alternate name, Oriental White-backed Vulture, is a leftover from that time.

It breeds on crags or in trees in northern and central India, Pakistan and southeast Asia, laying one egg. Birds may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident.

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which it finds by soaring over savannah and around human habitation. It often moves in flocks.

The White-rumped Vulture is a typical vulture, with a bald head, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It is much smaller than European Griffon. It has a white neck ruff. The adult's whitish back, rump and underwing coverts contrast with the otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark.

This is the smallest of the Gyps vultures, but is still a very large bird. It weighs 3.5"?7.5 kg (7.7"?16.5 lbs), 75"?85 cm (30-34 in) in length, and tapes 180"?212 cm (71-84 in) across the wings.

Flight silhouette

This species, as well as the Indian and Slender-billed Vultures have suffered a 99 percent population decrease in India apparently due to poisoning by diclofenac, the veterinary drug non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), that causes kidney failure in birds eating the carcasses of treated cattle. Meloxicam (another NSAID) was suggested as a substitute that was found to be harmless to vultures.. Organochlorine pesticide was found from egg and tissue samples from around India varying in concentrations from 0.002 ?g/g of DDE in muscles of vulture from Mudumalai to 7.30 ?g/g in liver samples from vultures of Delhi. Dieldrin varied from 0.003 and 0.015 ?g/g. Another hypothesis is that they have been decimated by avian malaria.

Birds were reported to adopt a drooped neck posture and this was considered a symptom of pesticide poisoning, but some studies suggest that this may be a thermoregulatory response since this posture is seen mainly during hot weather.

Conservation measures have included reintroduction, captive-breeding programs and artificial feeding or "vulture restaurants". Two chicks, which were apparently the first captive-bred Indian White-rumped Vultures ever, hatched in January, 2007, at a facility at Pinjore. However, they died after a few weeks, apparently because their parents were an inexperienced couple breeding for the first time in their lives "? a fairly common occurrence in birds of prey.


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