View Full Version : Vulture mating

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:11 PM
Dear All,
I am sharing the first documentation of Vulture Mating in the wild. Species: Gyps indicus.

I have been planning to specifically to Ramanagara to photograph vultures, but could not find time. I finally managed time from a short business trip to Bangalore. Fortunately, I had carried my photographic equipment. I had tied up with Apana and Mrudul to go to Ramnagara.

Light rain and cloudy morning greeted us on that eventful day. I was getting impatient as the taxi had not reached the hotel. I was wondering whether we will be able to see the vultures, as they normally come out and bask in the sunshine for a short time. Finally when we reached there around 6.30 am, we could see the vultures at a distance. A short hike later we were looking up at the vultures (Gyps indicus) perched on a rock face.

There were three vultures, two on one part of the rock face and another at a distance from the two. The vultures were at a distance of 45 meters.

The vultures were preening themselves, and at times were looking down, watching my movements. I photographed each movement to record their behaviour. I have mentioned the behaviour and time so that serious researchers can get detailed idea.

06:59:07 am: Vulture started preening
07:00:29 am stopped and raised its head.
07:00:30 am lowered its head to preen again
07:01:15 am started cleaning one of its primaries and finished at 07:05:56 am
07:06:43 am started cleaning its scapulars till 07:07:22 am when it takes a break
07:07:34 am starts cleaning its back feathers
07:08:45 am takes a break and raises its head
07:08:49 starts cleaning breast feathers
07:09:41 starts cleaning back feathers
07:11:12 am takes a break and raises its head then looks vacuously into space. The female had retreated into the background.
07:30:24 am The male vulture started looking down at us. Parts of the body of the female is visible to us from below.
07:30:29 am The male vulture loses interest and turns its head
07:32:16 am: The male vulture turns with its side profile visible to us i.e faces the north.

07:38:31 am: The female vulture moves towards the ledge and perches infront of the male. She is facing us. The male vulture still showing its flanks to us, has its head turned towards us ie. towards the east. In a fraction of a second, the female vulture starts lowering its head, retaining its position. She is still facing the east, ie. towards us and head lowered. The top portion of the head is visible, though the eyes are hidden behind the ledge.

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:15 PM
07:38:33 am: The female vulture remains in the head lowered position for about two seconds, and then the male vulture mounted on her. I had never seen mating of vultures before and I was surprised to see such a rare natural history moment unfold before me.

I could not predict this behaviour though I have watched mating behavior of other species in the wild like tiger mating, langur mating and mating of common birds like Indian Roller, painted stork etc. however, on hindsight, one can realise that the female is in a receptive position and ready for mating.

The realization dawned on me that the vultures were preparing themselves for the mating and hence were looking intently at us for some time, perhaps to ascertain the threat level from us.

07:39:11 am: The buffer of my camera cleared up and I started firing again, to record this. The male was pecking the back feathers below the neck of the female vulture. The female has her head raised upwards.

07:39:12 am: The male vulture grips the back feathers slightly ahead.

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:19 PM
07:39:15 am: The male vulture repositions its right leg and it is now more visible.

07:39:20 am: The head of the female is now a bit lowered.

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:22 PM
07:39:31 am: The eyes of the female are barely visible as the head is lowered. The male has tilted to its left and readjusts its right foot. The second and third toe could be seen raised.

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:25 PM
07:39:33 am: The male vulture repositions its feet and changes its grip on the back feathers. The female is slightly tilted ahead. There is a loud sound made by the vultures. More of the male vulture can now be seen. The neck muscles of the male can be seen arched and strained.

Sabyasachi Patra
04-05-2010, 09:32 PM
07:39:43 am: The female moves ahead and the male dismounts and I could see the male trying to bite the female. The female spreads its wings and moves ahead though not in flight. It turns its head, by instinct, as if in self defence. This was unlike the tiger mating behavior, where the female tries to paw the male and the male takes evasive action.

Within a minute they are perched an inch or two apart, with their backs to each other. I waited for two more hours, but the mating was not repeated.

It was a memorable experience, more so because it is the first record of vulture mating in the wild.

Long live our vultures!


Bibhav Behera
07-05-2010, 06:30 PM
Nice documentation Sabyasachi... Had seen a few images of Vlutures from this place earlier but not of mating... Good that you got 'em mating. Thanks for sharing. :)

Mrudul Godbole
09-05-2010, 03:50 PM
Thanks for posting this in detail. The full series with the detailed time and images give a fair idea about this behaviour. Thanks for sharing.

Sabyasachi Patra
13-05-2010, 10:57 PM
This is the last part of the story. The two partners turning their back on each other, albeit seated a few inches apart.

Mrudul Godbole
15-05-2010, 08:41 PM
So this is the last part of the story. I had witnessed the whole incident, but this surely helps to understand the behaviour completely. Thanks for sharing.

AB Apana
16-05-2010, 03:50 PM
"The two partners turning their back on each other," LOL, where have I heard this one before?


Abhishek Jamalabad
16-05-2010, 07:11 PM
Good you got to record these amazing natural history moments. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Chitrita Chatterjee
26-05-2010, 03:37 PM
OOOOfffffffff...... beautifully captured..... one for the records I am sure.... and also well serialised/documented....

There are a lot of us here who would thank you for posting this series sabyasachi.....

very well done....

Bibhav Behera
08-11-2010, 03:25 PM
Vulture Mating Record shot from Ramnagara! Have a few more from earlier in the day but they werent sharp.
It was heartwarming to see this in person.

Bibhav Behera
08-11-2010, 03:42 PM
This is the full frame version.

Mrudul Godbole
08-11-2010, 07:30 PM
Nice natural history behaviour captured. Wish the eye contact was better. Thanks for sharing.

Ravindra Yadav
08-11-2010, 09:06 PM
Really good shots of these vanishing vultures in wild condition. I hope there will be some new addition in their depleting numbers after this mating. We hope to get pictures of their offsprings (chicks) from Sabyasachi in this series.

I think this place (Ramnagra) is the same which is famous for shooting of film "Sholey"; which is some 40 km from Banglore ????

Ravindra Yadav