(1707) Gyps fulvus fulvescens.
THE INDIAN GRIFFON VULTURE.
Gyps fulvescens Hume, Ibis, 1869, p. 350 (Gurgaon, Punjab). Gyps fulvus. Blanf, & Oates, in, p. 320.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Crown thickly covered with white hair-like feathers, more sparse and bristly on sides of head, chin and throat; upper neck covered with white clown, becoming thinner and more bristle-like on the fore-neck; ruff golden fulvous, the feathers long and lanceolate with pale fulvescent central streaks ; upper plumage fulvous, varying considerably in shade; in some pinkish, in others browner, in others again more fawn ; in all, however, with paler edges and pale shaft-lines; rump and shorter upper tail-coverts paler fulvous ; greater and primary wing-coverts dark brown, edged paler when in fresh plumage; primaries and tail dark brown or blackish -brown; lower parts bright fulvous, pinkish brown or ochraceous, each feather with a narrow pale shaft-line. Very old birds obtain a pure white ruff of downy " feathers.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow-brown to brown; bill yellowish or greenish-horny to dusky brown, sometimes paler along the edge of the culmen; cere black; legs and feet dirty yellow to greenish-grey.
Measurements. Wing 675 to 740 mm., both extremes 8 : tail 302 to 330 mm.; tarsus about 100 to 120 mm.; culmen 71 to 74 mm.
Young birds are darker-coloured throughout and much less streaked, especially on the upper plumage, which is almost uniform dull fulvous-brown or even dark brown; the feathers of the ruff are brown with pale centres and are less narrow and lanceolate than in the more adult birds.
Distribution. This Vulture is common over the greater part of the North-West but is replaced in Afghanistan and Baluchistan by the typical race. It extends South to Khandesh and the Deccan and East to the plains of West Assam, where it U a non-breeding straggler only ; it was also recorded from Manbhoom by Ball and was seen by Blanford on the banks of the Uodavery near Dumagudem and is not rare in Behar and Orissa. In Kashmir it is common up to some 6,000 feet.
Nidification. The Indian Griffon breeds in small colonies on ledges of cliffs, making rough nests of sticks, branches and rubbish, which are occupied for many years in succession unless blown away in the Monsoon gales, when they are rebuilt on the same site, A single egg is laid, generally all white, rarely faintly spotted or blotched with pale reddish and, exceptionally, really well marked. As incubation advances the eggs get very filthy and stained. Twenty-five eggs average 90.7 x 70.2 mm.: maxima 97.0 X 72.0 and 95.0 x 73.0 mm.; minima 83.8 X 65.0 mm.
The number of pairs in a colony varies from half-a-dozen to about twenty. The breeding-season is November to early March in the plains, February to early April in Kashmir.
Habits. This Vulture is always gregarious both in the breeding and non-breeding-season but is nowhere seen in the same numbers as that in which Pseudogyps collects. It feeds entirely on carrion and has the usual disgusting habits of its tribe, feeding to repletion when the opportunity occurs and often, when forced to fly immediately after its repast, disgorging part before it takes to wing. When feeding in company with other Vultures, whether of its own or other species, it keeps up a continuous querulous mewing and squabbling, yet is never brave enough to make a real fight. On the ground it proceeds by ungainly hops and rarely runs, whilst if in great haste it assists its legs with flaps of its wings. In the air its night and wonderful soaring powers are as imposing as those of other Vultures. The smell of these birds is so overpowering, even when just killed, that no native cares to undertake the job of skinning them, so that skins of even the most common Vultures are not numerous in Museums.