Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Critically Endangered

Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)


French: Vautour royal German: Kahlkopfgeier Spanish: Buitre cabecirrojo

Vultur calvus


, 1786,

Pondicherry, India


Sometimes placed in Aegypius or Torgos, but probably distinctive enough to merit its own monotypic genus. Monotypic.


Mainly Indian Subcontinent (formerly from Pakistan) E to Myanmar and S China (SW Yunnan), and Indochina (S Laos and Cambodia). Widespread in recent past; now extinct or very rare in much of its historical range.

Descriptive notes

76–86 cm; 3600–5400 g; wingspan 199–229 cm. Medium-sized, jet-black vulture with relatively small head and relatively slim, moderately fingered wings; pale... read more


Mostly silent. Gives hoarse croak, becoming a scream in disputes at carcasses, and a raucous... read more


Wide variety of habitats, including open countryside, semi-desert, cultivated areas, savanna and... read more

Food and feeding

Usually feeds on carrion, including small corpses; also pirates food from other vultures, especially Neophron percnopterus, and... read more


Season mainly Dec–Sept, most laying in Feb–Mar. Territorial, pair excluding conspecifics, but sometimes nests in close... read more


Mostly sedentary, but thought to perform seasonal altitudinal movements in some regions, e.g. Nepal. read more

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. CITES II. Rather small population has suffered extremely rapid reduction in recent past, this likely to continue. BirdLife International puts... read more

Recommended citation

Clark, W.S., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).