Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)
Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Sarcogyps calvus was once widespread throughout India and South East Asia, but is now rare or extinct in most of this range. It is mainly solitary, or lives in breeding pairs. These pairs construct a large nest in a tree and will defend their territory from other vultures. As it is only a medium-sized vulture, this species may have been out-competed by other, larger vultures. However, with vulture numbers falling, S. calvus may be a more dominant species. It will sometimes steal food from the smaller Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus).
The fall in numbers of S. calvus's ungulate prey, poisoning, carcass removal, and hunting have all contributed to the decline of this species. The use of the drug diclofenac in livestock, which causes kidney failure in vultures, has reduced the numbers of many different vulture species.
Diclofenac for livestock has been banned in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Education about the effect of the drug has begun in Cambodia, as well as feeding vultures in “vulture restaurants”.
Photo: Anshul Maheshwari on ARKive.