Red-headed Vulture

Stuart Humphreys

Australian Museum

Australian Museum
Sydney, Australia

Red-headed or Pondicherry Vulture
Sarcogyps calvus

The Red-headed Vulture is the only living representative of the genus Sarcogyps. Although it is distinct from the White-rumped Vulture (Gyps), it performs the same ecological service of disposing of animal remains, including those of humans.

It is threatened with extinction because it is susceptible to renal failure from feeding on carcasses of domestic animals treated with the anti-inflamatory drug diclofenac. Unlike the Gyps vultures which flock at carcasses, the Red-headed Vulture is a territorial species, and it’s possible it was previously shielded from diclofenac poisoning by being outcompeted by the more abundant Gyps vultures.

It seems that a suite of threats has been involved in its decline, most importantly the intensification of agriculture and the reduction in native mammals and associated carrion. If this species is driven to extinction, it will also result in the extinction of the genus Sarcogyps.

Distribution: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam
Conservation status: Critically Endangered
Evolutionary distinctiveness: Medium


  • Title: Red-headed Vulture
  • Creator: Stuart Humphreys
  • Publisher: Australian Museum
  • Rights: Australian Museum

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