Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus


Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Red List criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
A2abce+4abce A2abce+4abce A2abce+4abce

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2021 Critically Endangered A2abce+4abce
2016 Critically Endangered A2abce+3bce+4abce
2015 Critically Endangered A2abce+3bce+4abce
2013 Critically Endangered A2abce+3bce+4abce
2012 Critically Endangered A2abce+3bce+4abce
2009 Critically Endangered A2a,b,c,e; A3b,c,e; A4a,b,c,e
2008 Critically Endangered
2007 Critically Endangered
2004 Near Threatened
2000 Lower Risk/Near Threatened
1994 Lower Risk/Near Threatened
1988 Lower Risk/Least Concern
Species attributes

Migratory status not a migrant Forest dependency medium
Land-mass type Land-mass type - continent
Average mass -

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 5,230,000 medium
Severely fragmented? no -
Population and trend
Value Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
Number of mature individuals 2500-9999 poor suspected 2007
Population trend decreasing medium estimated 1990-2025
Decline % (10 years/3 generations past and future) 80-99 - - -
Generation length (years) 11.51 - - -

Population justification: Given its rarity in South-East Asia it is unlikely that more than a few hundred individuals remain there, while the total population seems unlikely to exceed 10,000 mature individuals given the patchiness of its distribution across India and the apparently catastrophic very recent declines. In light of this it is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This roughly equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, here rounded to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification: Cuthbert et al. (2006) recorded a decline of c.91% (range: 61-98%) in the number of individuals counted during surveys in India during 1992-2003, which equates to a decline of >99% (range: 94.8-99.9%) over three generations (34.53 years [Bird et al. 2020]). Similarly, Galligan et al. (2014) reported a decline of 94% from 1992 to 2003 in India, although there was evidence of a partial recovery during the late 2000s. The frequency of reports of Red-headed Vulture sightings on eBird declined by c.81% during 2000-2018, further indicating a steep population decline (SoIB 2020). Counts of vultures attending vulture restaurants in Cambodia showed fluctuating but relatively stable numbers of this species during 2004-2010, followed by a decreasing trend during 2010-2016, with a minimum population estimate of 58 individuals in 2006 and 26 individuals in 2016, equating to a decline of c.94% over three generations (Sum & Loveridge 2016; Loveridge et al. 2019). The population is therefore estimated to be declining at a rate of 80-99% over three generations. 

Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Presence Origin Resident Breeding Non-breeding Passage
Bangladesh extant native yes
Bhutan extant native yes
Cambodia extant native yes
China (mainland) extant native yes
India extant native yes
Laos extant native yes
Malaysia possibly extinct native yes
Myanmar extant native yes
Nepal extant native yes
Pakistan extant vagrant yes
Thailand possibly extinct native yes
Vietnam extant native yes

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name
Vietnam Yok Don
Vietnam Ya Lop
Vietnam Chu M'lanh
Laos Attapu Plain
Cambodia Chhep
Laos Dong Khanthung
Cambodia Western Siem Pang
Laos Xe Kong Plains
Cambodia Lomphat
Cambodia Upper Srepok Catchment
Cambodia Mondulkiri - Kratie Lowlands
Laos Siphandon
Nepal Nawalparasi forests
Nepal Rampur valley
Nepal Dharan forests
Nepal Farmlands in Lumbini area
Nepal Annapurna Conservation Area
Nepal Barandabhar forests and wetlands
Nepal Bardia National Park
Nepal Chitwan National Park
Nepal Dang Deukhuri foothill forests and west Rapti wetlands
Nepal Khaptad National Park
Nepal Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and Koshi Barrage
Nepal Langtang National Park
Nepal Mai Valley forests
Nepal Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve
India Maguri and Motapung Beels
India Manas Reserve Forest
India Krungming Reserve Forest, Khorongma & Kopili-Umrangsu Reservoirs
India Sardar Samand Lake
India Simbalbara National Park
India Pilibhit Tiger Reserve
India Kharda Dam
India Jor Beer
India Mahaveer Swami Wildlife Sanctuary (Lalitpur)
India Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary
India Badopal Lake
India Pench Tiger Reserve
India Amangarh Reserve Forest
India Mahendri Reserve Forest
India Nikol-Samadhiyala-Malan Wetlands Complex
India Pawalgarh Conservation Reserve
India Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Conservation Reserve
India Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
India Nandhour Wildlife Sanctuary
India Chandoli National Park
Vietnam Ea So

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Artificial/Terrestrial Urban Areas marginal resident
Forest Subtropical/Tropical Dry major resident
Grassland Subtropical/Tropical Dry suitable resident
Savanna Dry suitable resident
Shrubland Subtropical/Tropical Dry suitable resident
Altitude 0 - 2500 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Agriculture & aquaculture Annual & perennial non-timber crops - Agro-industry farming Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Slow, Significant Declines Medium Impact: 6
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Intentional use (species is the target) Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Species mortality
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Unintentional effects (species is not the target) Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Rapid Declines Medium Impact: 7
Species mortality, Other
Biological resource use Logging & wood harvesting - Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest] Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Slow, Significant Declines Low Impact: 5
Ecosystem degradation
Natural system modifications Other ecosystem modifications Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Slow, Significant Declines Medium Impact: 6
Pollution Agricultural & forestry effluents - Type Unknown/Unrecorded Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Very Rapid Declines High Impact: 8
Species mortality
Transportation & service corridors Utility & service lines Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Unknown Unknown
Species mortality

Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Medicine - human & veterinary - - non-trivial recent
Pets/display animals, horticulture - - international non-trivial recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Sarcogyps calvus. Downloaded from on 22/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/09/2023.