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Ymit with the Aquila logger on his back playing with an adult Egyptian Vulture N. p. ginginianus with not particularly natural and safe background.Summary: Egyptian Vultures are globally threatened species and their breeding range stretch from southwestern Europe in the eastern direction up to northwestern India, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. In summer 2022 five individuals of the species were tagged with Aquila dataloggers within the conservation project “Endangered raptor species conservation on the Indo-Palearctic migratory flyway in Kazakhstan”. All the five individuals flew southeast for their autumn migration and four birds reached Rajasthan Region in India, where three of the birds remained while one travelled further south to Pakistan. In January 2023, I visited India and the wintering grounds of the three birds, successfully finding all of them, which gave an opportunity to describe the wintering habitats and birds’ behaviors. In addition, one Steppe Eagle tagged also with Aquila logger in 2021 in Khakassia Region, Russia within the RRRCN Conservation Project, was wintering in the area.

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Rated as „Endangered“ by IUCN, Egyptian Vultures are subject to various conservation projects in Europe, Asia and Africa. The biggest concern is their European population which decreased by 50% within the last 40 years. Unfortunately, also in other regions declines were observed. The population occupying the temperate regions is migratory which extends the risk factors, among which loss of habitat, power-line accidents and poisoning are being named. The wintering grounds recognized so far are located over vast areas of Africa, as well as southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and further east to India.

Being a vulture species, carrion is the main food for Egyptian Vultures, although, since they are relatively small in size, they are forced to wait until other, bigger scavengers finish their meal. They are also capable of praying on small mammals and catching young birds, and their diet extends further to insects, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables. These preferences and capabilities determine the selection of both breeding and wintering grounds. With constantly increasing pressure from humans, Egyptian Vultures often chose rural areas with traditional cattle grazing as main land usage form, where possibility of finding dead animals/carrion still remains relatively high. In recent years, landfill sites have become their most frequently visited feeding places, particularly during wintering period.

Material and methods

Photo 1: Team members on the nest of Egyptian Vulture during the field work, from left Igor Karyakin, Dr.Dau Lal Bohra, Elvira Nikolenko. Kazakhstan, July 2022.In June 2022 five juvenile Egyptian Vultures were fitted with Aquila33 GPS/GSM dataloggers in their nest sites in Kazakhstan within the conservation project “Endangered raptor species conservation on the Indo-Palearctic migratory flyway in Kazakhstan”. With the weight of 33g, the solar powered dataloggers are capable of collecting, as well as sending data every 3 minutes, which distinguishes them from other products on the market and facilitates finding birds or loggers directly in the field.

As a tradition, all birds were given names. Almaz, Jean, Tyn, Ymit and Yshqysh. The Steppe Eagle was named Kron.

After the autumn migration, three birds settled for their winter in the nearby territories in Rajasthan, India. The dates of arrival were the following: Almaz – 23.10.2022, Tyn – 02.10.2022, Ymit – 21.09.2022. In addition, one Steppe Eagle tagged as juvenile in Khakassia Region, Russia, with the same type of Aquila logger, also chose to spend the winter in the Rajasthan Region and arrived at the site on 06.10.2022. All four birds occupied territories with very good coverage of GSM network and were sending their data on regular basis.

The configuration of the logger during the migration and wintering periods was set to collect fixes every hour and perform the transmission every five hours. Since Aquila dataloggers can also be configured once fitted, for the purposes of the studies the configuration was adjusted one day before visiting the areas with one fix per hour and direct dispatch of the acquired fix. On the day of visit, the configuration was further adjusted to fix every 6 minutes with immediate transmission. After the direct observation, the configuration was changed back to its original settings. Worth noting is the fact, that all these changes had no impact on the battery state of the loggers, despite the fact, that in some cases the “6 minutes” setting was active for almost whole day.

On arrival to Rajasthan on January, 21st, all four birds were still present in their winter territories.

The first searching was performed on the wintering grounds of Tyn on January 21st. The previous analysis of the recent GPS data revealed the bird was spending its time mainly in 3 different locations within some 7 km straight line distance (will be named Loc. 1, Loc. 2 and Loc. 3), west of the city of Jodhpur. The latest morning coordinate was the most distant from the city (Loc. 1) and was selected as the target for the search. On the way there, several tens of Egyptian Vultures, Himalayan Vultures Gyps himalayensis, Cinereous Vultures Aegypius monachus and Steppe Eagles were observed in thermals, with their numbers growing rapidly to hundreds with the growing temperature. As Loc. 3 was the nearest one and some of the vultures were heading in this direction, it was visited first.

Photo 2: Loc. 1 of the wintering territory of Tyn - Badli Bheruji Pond.It turned out to be a small lake named Badli Bheruji Pond with numerous Egyptian Vultures present, accompanied by Steppe Eagles and Cinereous Vultures. Of other raptor species, one Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and passing by Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus were observed. At this small site other migratory and wintering birds were relatively numerous. These included waders - Ruffs Philomachus pugnax, Stilts Himantopus himantopus, Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus, ducks - Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata, Eurasian Teals Anas crecca, Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos and other water birds including a big flock of Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus. In the evening, at the second visit to the location, also a pair of Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus was observed. This location was used by Egyptian Vultures for resting  and taking care of the hygiene by bath-taking both in the sun, in the sand and in the lake. Egyptian Vultures did not seem to be in any way interested in the scarce vegetation surrounding the pond.

We then moved west to Loc. 1, where the latest locations were still coming from. The area was a deserted rural area with many fenced fields used for grazing goats and camels.

Photo 3: Tyn’s Loc. 1.The vegetation consisted of quite numerous Ghaf Trees Prosopis cineraria, also known as Khajari, with some Kapok Bush (Desert Cotton) Aerva javanica and grass species. Bird species were represented by various passerines like the Indian Robin Copsychus fulicatus, or White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus, but also Grey Francolins Ortygornis pondicerianus were observed. Animals were mainly domestic species with an interesting observation of Nilgais (Blue Bulls) Boselaphus tragocamelus. There were also some burrows under the bushes but without any inhabitants emerging.

Photo 4: Tyn with visible Aquila logger accompanied by other Egyptian Vultures.It did not take long before first Egyptian Vultures were observed, including Tyn, that seemed to just had started enjoying the thermals. It became obvious that this area is the main roosting area for approximately hundreds Egyptian Vultures.

Here the Ghaf Trees are highly appreciated by the birds. Tyn moved east in the direction of Loc. 2 and 3, while during one hour the sky above was full of circling Egyptian Vultures, both adult and juvenile birds. Also other vultures were present (Cinereous, Himalayan), but at much higher altitudes. Under such circumstances, it was impossible for two people to specify more detailed numerical data and it would be highly advisable to conduct a survey in the area.

Photo 5: Steppe Eagles at the landfill.As Tyn’s coordinates were confirming that the bird had settled in Loc. 2 and stopped moving, Loc. 2 became our next destination. Placed directly between Loc. 1 and 3, it turned out to be a massive landfill (approx. 1 km2) with Ghaf Trees growing every 20-30 meters. Here again, hundreds of vultures and Steppe Eagles were present, which is no wonder concerning the fact of the landfill serving as a collection place for all the dead cows from the area.

It became obvious that the entire area, including the three locations, offers perfect conditions for wintering raptors and vultures, resulting in massive numbers of individuals. Egyptian Vultures take particular pleasure in wintering here, as the area covers all the species’ needs for successful and stress free stay.

Additionally in the evening, another lake was discovered north of Jodhpur which turned out to be partly an entertaining place for the citizens, but partly closed to the public (including us, unfortunately). Some vultures were seen heading exactly towards this closed part for roosting.

Photo 6: Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Himalayan Vulture.The next early morning we moved to the wintering area of the other two Egyptian Vultures fitted with the loggers, north-west of the city of Jaisalmer. The road led west through desert areas. During the journey Himalayan, Eurasian Griffon, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures were observed, as well as killed on the road Asiatic Wildcat Felis lybica ornata.

Photo 7: Ymit with the Aquila logger on his back playing with an adult Egyptian Vulture N. p. ginginianus with not particularly natural and safe background.The wintering grounds on Ymit were reached in the late morning and the bird was found within minutes, sitting on the ground accompanied by a Griffon Vulture and several adult Egyptian Vultures of the ginginianus subspecies. Soon after the vultures took off and started soaring in the sky and we could admire some chasing games between Ymit and one adult Egyptian Vulture.

Photo 8: Wintering grounds of Ymit.The area around was the Rajasthan desert area overgrown with grass, with very scarce Khajari Trees Prospis cineraria, Crown Flowers Calotropis gigantea, Khimp Herb Leptadenia pyrotechnica and Kapok Bush Aerva javanica. The whole area seemed to be deserted and no cattle was observed around. Under the bushes, some burrows were present, but seemed mostly unoccupied. In the background, a very disturbing sight in form of wind energy farm was present. In the sky many vultures were observed, here on higher altitudes. Among already mentioned species worth mentioning was the observation of Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus.

Photo 9: The village near which Almaz spent his first winter. Unter the pole a dead Steppe Eagle.The wintering area of the third Egyptian Vulture Almaz was only some 20 km north of Ymit and was reached within 20 minutes. The area turned out to be also desert with a tiny village inhabited by sheep keepers. The vegetation did not differ much from the previous area, with also some Kar Shrubs Capparis deciduas. There were also no wild animals spotted. A pair of Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus was present in the nearest vicinity of the village.

Photo 10: Almaz.Photo 11: Almaz with visible Aquila logger on the back.Almaz was spotted standing on the ground within a group of five juvenile Egyptian Vultures and was the shyest one. Soon after he started soaring and after gaining height returned some hundred meters away. Also other Egyptian Vultures and Steppe Eagles were present around. A conversation with a local person revealed the spot was regularly used by villagers to dispose dead sheep and sheep rests, which surely attracted the birds. Unfortunately one Steppe Eagle was found dead due to electrocution under a pole on the spot.

Photo 12: The wintering grounds of Kron. In the middle, the White-footed Fox.Several days later, the wintering grounds of Kron, Steppe Eagle tagged in 2021 in Khakassia Region, Russia, were visited in the northern part of Rajasthan, north-east of the city of Bikaner. The area differed slightly from the previous ones as the sandy soil offered more dense vegetation in form of already mentioned tree and shrub species.

Photo 13: Indian Desert Jird.The biggest difference was however the presence of dense colonies of the Indian Desert Jird Meriones hurrianae. These rodents were extremely numerous within the area and even taking close-up pictures was a matter of seconds while walking through the area. The observation of the White-footed Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla was, in this respect, no surprise. In addition, the area was intensly used for sheep/goat/camel grazing.

Photo 14: Kron returning to his roosting tree in the evening.Kron has been present in this area for almost 4 month and the locations gathered throughout this period showed very small movements, causing even a suspicion of bird’s death. However, after an hour of searching late in the afternoon it turned out the bird was fine. In addition, numerous other Steppe Eagles were observed in the area.

Results and discussion

Egyptian Vultures are globally endangered species. For the migrating part of the population, the important conservation factor is preservation of both breeding and wintering habitats. Modern research methods facilitate monitoring individual birds throughout the year. Use of telemetry devices extends the capabilities of specifying biotope preferences within both breeding and wintering grounds, as well as along migratory routes. The technology enables to determine threats and most important decline factors.

All three Egyptian Vultures wintering in India selected relatively similar biotope types for their wintering grounds - these were the deserted regions of Rajasthan Region in India. At the same time, they all chose to utilize different possibilities offered.

Tyn opted for the most optimal site, as it may seem, which covered all the aspects of successful wintering – abundance of food, hygiene and quiet roosting ground. Particularly in terms of food supply, the area seemed perfect; offering both carrion and landfill rests. The water pond was an extra benefit of the area. Worth mentioning is the fact, that all three areas were relatively quiet – the grazing fields were rural and extensively used, the pond was part of a sanctuary with very limited access for humans and the landfill was a vast area with numerous desolate corners. It is therefore no surprise that the whole area was home for hundreds, if not thousands of other vulture and eagle species. It would be highly advisable to perform a census of the area. The “perfection” of this area as wintering grounds is also confirmed by the telemetry data, since Tyn spent the entire winter there.Figure 1: Winter telemetry data of Tyn until 31.03.2023.Figure 1: Winter telemetry data of Tyn until 31.03.2023.

Ymit selected seemingly “pourer” grounds, which however did not seem to affect his physical condition. The telemetry data for this bird seem to confirm that the area was not as perfect as in case of Tyn – Ymit spent only some time in the area covering larger daily distances and visiting other locations.Figure 2: Winter telemetry data of Ymit until 31.03.2023.Figure 2: Winter telemetry data of Ymit until 31.03.2023.

Special concern for the area is certainly the wind farm, which poses a serious threat to large birds. Although not as numerous as in case of Tyn, vultures were also present in this area.

The wintering grounds of Almaz differed from those of the former two by the selection of a tiny village and the dead animals disposed by the inhabitants as the main food source. The food resources were sufficient for him and some 10-20 other birds in the area, but with time also Almaz moved from the area and his telemetry data confirm he travelled longest distances throughout the winter.Figure 3: Winter telemetry data of Almaz until 31.03.2023.Figure 3: Winter telemetry data of Almaz until 31.03.2023.

Some concern in this location is the finding of an electrocuted Steppe Eagle under an electricity pole.

All three Egyptian Vultures were found in good condition and shape which implies they all found suitable wintering conditions in the Rajasthan Region. The telemetry data analysis shows that they opted for different strategies – from benefiting within relatively small grounds to covering large areas. Their wintering ranges extended from 897 km2 (Tyn), through 11282 km2 (Ymit) to 79809 km2 (Almaz, almost hundred times bigger than Tyn’s, Figure 4). Despite such huge differences, all strategies proved successful.Figure 4: GIS calculations illustrating the differences between habitat selection and food availability – here wintering polygons of all three Egyptian Vultures.Figure 4: GIS calculations illustrating the differences between habitat selection and food availability – here wintering polygons of all three Egyptian Vultures.

Analysis of the daily distances covered by the birds can be somehow striking compared to the ranges, since the difference in numbers is some mere 8 km per day and 120 km per month (Figure 5).Figure 5: Examples of telemetry data analysis options available within AquilaSystem.Figure 5: Examples of telemetry data analysis options available within AquilaSystem.

This comparison could indicate that the wintering grounds of all three birds offered the same and sufficient amount of food supplies and the daily 31-39 km distance was a casual routine the birds enjoyed rather than needed. The conclusions could be, on one side that small wintering grounds do not have to imply reduced food resources around, on the other side that large wintering polygons not always mean searching for lacking food resources.

Discussion: Scavengers feed on carrion, but in recent 50 years, landfills have played significant role as food source. During the visit to India, many landfills were visited and numerous scavengers, including Egyptian Vultures, were sighted. The situation raises questions concerning the role of landfills for birds as such, as well as many other issues related to carrion and landfill management. Data presented in the article would suggest Egyptian Vultures wintering in India use both natural and artificial food sources without significant positive or negative impacts.

Steppe Eagle Kron

The wintering grounds of the Steppe Eagle Kron seem to be a typical perfect biotope for the species. Colonies of the Indian Desert Jird are the main food resource for the wintering species in the region. Additionally the landfill near the city of Bikaner provides another food supply. The data from the logger is only a confirmation of the abundance of rodent colonies in the area, as the bird moved from one colony to another, remaining for a certain period within a small area, enjoying the abundance of food.Figure 6: Winter telemetry data of Kron until 31.03.2023.Figure 6: Winter telemetry data of Kron until 31.03.2023.

As long as the colonies remain intact, the Steppe Eagle will find these territories suitable for the wintering period.

The general conclusion is that all birds find suitable conditions for wintering in the Rajasthan Region in India. Low settlement densities offer much space for nature, which in connection with the friendly attitude towards nature among Indian people seems to be a perfect conservation aspect. The wintering birds can freely choose between natural and anthropogenic food sources. Concerns begin with expansion of the “civilized western way of life” and every known threat this brings - from unsecured electricity poles, through usage of chemicals in agriculture, management of carcass, to “ecologically friendly” wind farms.

The numbers of other vulture and eagle species confirm the attractiveness of the region.


I would like to thank the BRCC organization for involving me in the project and the team members – Mrs. Genrietta Pulikova and Mrs. Alyona Kaptyonkina for the field work. Special thanks to Mr. Igor Karyakin, Mrs. Elvira Nikolenko and the RRRCN team for unforgettable moments during field research in Russia and Kazakhstan. Thanks to Dr. Dau La Bohra for specifying Indian plant species and Mr. Premsagar Mestri for his guide services through India.

The birds were tagged within the “Endangered raptor species conservation on the Indo-Palearctic migratory flyway in Kazakhstan” project.

GIS calculations performed with the AquilaSytem analysis tool ( available for use with the Aquila loggers.

About the author

Kordian Bartoszuk is a nature lover and owner of the Aquila company which manufactures GPS-GSM dataloggers. The author has been involved in various conservation projects with various roles within the projects. As professional IT system administrator finds nature the best system on this planet and every day spent either at the office desk or in the field brings only further confirmation to this statement.


This article is not a scientific one since the author has no scientific degree. It lacks citations, since the author has no competence and lacks time to write it the proper, scientific way. The most important thing missing in the article is the scientific description and role of the biotopes – this knowledge lacks the author the most and will never find time to make it up.

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