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Himalayan Vulture

Gyps himalayensis


1.0 - 1.2m

2.5 - 3.1m

6 - 12.5kg

15 - 25 yrs





The Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) is notable for being one of the largest of all Old World vultures, and – by extension - of most true raptors. It is sometimes known as the Himalayan griffon vulture, or more simply as the Himalayan griffon. It is believed by Buddhists to carry the souls of the dead to heaven - it will not visit the bodies of those who had sinned in life.

Near Threatened




Its massive size is immediately striking, as is its immense weight. It has a distinctive, spiked ruff composed of long brown and white feathers. Its head and neck is covered with a pale yellowish-white down. The underparts are brown to buff streaked with white, whereas the upperparts feature a stronger contrasting brown. The legs are feathered.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Like similar species of Old World vulture, most of its vocalisations revolve around feeding. Specifically, the Himalayan vulture is known to make a harsh rattling sound when arriving at a carcass, and often hisses whilst in the process of consuming it. It is theorised that this may be the vulture's way of staking a claim to deter other opportunists.


It feeds exclusively on carrion. A large majority of this comes from the domestic yak, but they may follow other grazing animals looking for deceased members of the herd. Strangely, they are picky about eating offal, but will still eat flesh even if it’s old and putrid. In “sky burials” - a Tibetan funeral practice - human corpses are left out for the vultures to consume.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


They find a relatively secluded cliff ledge and build a sturdy platform out of sticks – often, up to seven pairs may form a colony by using nearby ledges on the same cliff face. Just one egg is laid, but since the incubation period is rather long (8 weeks), this may be to help boost survival rates, particularly as the young will need to be looked after for up to six months.


Their range is rather small, but they are not confined to just the Himalayas. They can be found from western China, westwards around the Plateau of Tibet and Nepal to Tajikistan, then vaguely northeast via the Tien Shan mountain ranges to Mongolia. This range also extends into India and Pakistan. They reside along mountains, cliffs and rocky peaks.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


The use of diclofenac and other veterinary drugs is a leading cause of death in vultures, who consume it indirectly through livestock carcasses. Although these drugs are widely used across south Asia, diclofenac has since been banned in Nepal, leading to some positive signs of recovery, although their is evidence the drug remains on the market in a different form.

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