Physical characteristics: At about 4 pounds (1.8 kilometers), the Egyptian vulture is one of the smaller Old World vultures. Their length is about 25 inches (63.5 kilometers) from bill tip to tail. They have bright yellow skin on their faces and a "mane" of white feathers on their heads. The rest of their feathers are also white, except for black flight feathers.
Geographic range: Egyptian vultures live in Africa and India year round. The birds that breed in northern Africa, Europe, and Asia, north of India, migrate to warmer areas after breeding.
Habitat: Egyptian vultures like dry, wide-open lands, including deserts, grasslands, farm fields, and pastures. They also live in cities, where people welcome them as a clean-up crew.
Diet: Like all vultures, Egyptian vultures are scavengers, eating mostly carrion, dead animals. They also eat garbage, insects, eggs, and occasionally live prey. They are famous for their ability to break open
Egyptian vultures build big, messy stick nests on rocky ledges or in caves. Where there are no rocks, they build their nests in trees. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)
thick ostrich eggs by throwing stones at them. Very few birds know how to use tools that way.
Behavior and reproduction: Egyptian vultures usually build big, messy stick nests on rocky ledges or in caves. Where there are no rocks, they build their nests in trees. They usually lay two eggs, and, unlike most raptors, the parents regurgitate, bring up from the stomach, food to feed the chicks.
Egyptian vultures and people: An Egyptian pharaoh once made a law that anyone who killed an Egyptian vulture would be put to death. He thought the job these birds did to clean up people's waste was very important. People still value the bird for that reason. More than a century ago, the bile from Egyptian vultures' livers was made into a medicine and their skins were tanned to make leather.
Conservation status: Egyptian vultures are not threatened. ■
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