The Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), also known as Monk vulture, is the largest bird of prey of Southern Europe and the Middle East. It looks very similar to the American turkey vulture. Both birds have evolved featherless, bald heads and necks that allow them to push their heads into rotting carcasses without fouling their body feathers. Both species have also evolved extremely acidic stomachs to protect them from bacterial poisoning in eating carrion. They even have similar behaviors.
The black vultures spend much time in flight searching for food. They gather at medium to large carcasses with other vultures, over which they dominate. They are less social than other species and usually only one will feed at a time. They prefer open areas, especially dry meadows and grassland, as well as open forest and scrub-covered hillside, always in undisturbed, remote areas and usually with surrounding plains.
This vulture can been seen perched upright, head sunk between shoulders, or, when alert, raised to reveal long dense ruff, on cliffs, rocks, boulders, or trees. The Monk vulture walks and lumbers with ample wings that fully conceal tail and much of body. Sexes are alike.
In some countries (Pakistan), the Eurasian black vulture populations have been affected by trapping for zoo trade.
- A Field Guide to the Raptors of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. William S. Clark, N. John Schmitt
- Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful. George R. McGhee
- Raptors of the World. David A. Christie, James Ferguson-Lees