December 12, 2023 – (New Delhi): In a surprising and historic event, the elusive cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) has been spotted at the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi, marking the first appearance of this rare bird in the region in over five decades. The sighting, which occurred on December 9, has stirred excitement among bird enthusiasts and conservationists alike.
The cinereous vulture, native to Central Asia and Europe, was last documented in Delhi by wildlife biologists in 1969, creating a significant gap of 54 years between sightings. The recent observation was made by retired scientist and avid birder, Surya Prakash, who managed to capture the majestic bird in flight over Neeli Jheel within the sanctuary.
Prakash, describing the unique encounter, mentioned that the cinereous vulture was accompanied by an Egyptian vulture, while two black kites engaged in a display of aerial prowess. Despite the challenges posed by the harassing kites, Prakash skillfully photographed the vulture, confirming its identity as the cinereous vulture.
“It was around 10 am, not the usual time for birding, but good for raptors. These are heavy birds, and thermal currents at this hour of the day help them gain altitude with less energy. We saw some raptors soaring. I saw some black kites chasing one big raptor. Some Egyptian vultures were tailing it. It came down a little, so I took some photos,” shared Surya Prakash.
The cinereous vulture, classified as “near threatened,” is among the largest and heaviest raptors globally, boasting a wingspan of three meters. With its dark brown plumage, striking white patches near the beak, and impressive size, it is often referred to as the black vulture. The bird’s appearance in the Delhi skies after at least three decades has ignited discussions among experts about the significance of the sighting for local biodiversity.
This unprecedented event emphasizes the importance of preserving and protecting wildlife sanctuaries, such as the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, as crucial habitats for rare and endangered species. As scientists and bird enthusiasts continue to unravel the mysteries of avian migration and behavior, the cinereous vulture’s return to Delhi serves as a reminder of the delicate balance within ecosystems and the need for ongoing conservation efforts.