(1709) Gyps himalayensis Hume.
THE HIMALAYAN GRIFFON VULTURE.
Gyps himalayensis, Fauna B, I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 13.
This Griffon is found throughout the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Tibet and Western Assam. North of this it is a resident breeding bird in Turkestan. It breeds most commonly between 4,000 and 8,000 feet, occuring up to 14,000 feet in Tibet and to 10,000 feet in Gilgit.
This species is entirely a cliff builder, sometimes selecting unapproachable sites on ledges on sheer precipices, unclimbable and with overhanging crests, at other times places which can be climbed with or without the aid of ropes and, semetimes, on ledges on sloping cliffs on sites which can be got at with little difficulty and.no danger. They breed in colonies, usually quite small, while Hume notes that six nests is the most he has seen together. Skinner, however, found a dozen pairs in a colony on Parachinar, Ward mentions colonies of a dozen or more nests in Kashmir, while Dodsworth sent me some eggs from a colony which he considered to have contained fifty or sixty pairs. Even when the colonies are larger than usual the nests may be consideraby scattered and only two or three close together on any one ledge.
Dodsworth described to me a small colony of about a dozen pairs found by him in the Keonthal State as follows :—“These Vultures are very common in this State between 5,000 and 9,000 feet. The eggs I send you, were all laid in nests which were built on ledges of the cliff’s face but were got at without difficulty and without having to use Topes etc. In some cases the nests were bulky structures of sticks and branches, well lined with smaller ones, others were comparatively small, whilst in one or two cases the eggs were laid directly on the bare earth, resting on the debris and dust collected on the ledges. The birds must have used this cliff for many generations as the whole face was whitened with their droppings and below, at the base, was an indescribable litter of remains of bones, skins ete.”
Generally the ledges selected are such as are fairly well pro¬tected from rain and wind by overhanging rocks, and Cock says that “in all cases there is a shelter for the young by some overhanging ledge.”
Hume notes that they sometimes usurp the nests of Eagles and other birds, while Cock records “a nest that I was watching, belong¬ing to Gypaetus barbatus, was taken possession of by a pair of G. himalayensis ; they commenced by throwing out the wool that had been placed in the nest, and for some days at least one Vulture might always be seen on the nest and occasionally both. I often saw the Lammergeyer try to effect ft lodgment on the nest, but the Vulture on sentry had, only to come to the front to drive the Lammergeyer off.”
As regards the breeding season Hume writes that they lay during the last week in December to the first week in March ; most birds certainly lay in January and early February, but Ward took many nests in March and April, while I have one egg taken in Tibet on the 9th May. This may, however, have been a second egg laid, for the colony had been previously raided, or it may have been an addled egg, as the other nests contained young birds.
As usual with the bigger Vultures only one egg is laid. Of two out of three eggs the surface is unspotted, or nearly unspotted, white, while the third is more or less faintly blotched or speckled with light reddish. One very handsome egg collected by Dods¬worth is well spotted all over with rather bright reddish-brown. Hume, however, remarks, and is confirmed by some specimens in his collection, that “fully two-thirds are more or lees blotched or streaked with lighter or duller shades of red-brown, or with pale brown or olive-brown, perhaps one in ten are blotched all over, and two in ten have a considerable amount of markings, confluent at one or other end,”
The texture is coarser than in the eggs of other species of Gyps and in shape they are proportionately longer. The inside membrane of the egg is a dark bright green in all eggs of Gyps.
Fifty egga, including those in Hume’s collection, average 94.8 x 70.1 mm. : maxima 103.0 x 71.8 and 94.7 x 74.0 mm. ; minima 89.2 x 68.9 and 90.6 x 65.0 mm.
1709. Gyps himalayensis
(1709) Gyps himalayensis Hume.