One of the most typical members of the group is the Common Cinereous, or Black Vulture (Vultur monachus), a bird distributed from southern Europe and northwestern Africa through central Asia to India and China. It is about forty-two inches in length and is dull sooty black in color, with brownish or chocolate reflections. The ” ruff ” at the base of the neck is composed of pointed, downy feathers, while the head and throat are covered with a short, velvety, black down. The bare skin above the neck is of a livid flesh-color. The nostrils are small and nearly circular. It is described as being a sluggish, repulsive bird, feeding almost exclusively on carrion and such refuse. ” Repulsive and hideous-looking as are a group of Vultures assembled around a carcase of a large animal and gorging themselves to satiety upon its contents, their appearance is very different as they are seen wheeling in circles at a great height in the blue sky of a tropical noon; and no spectacle is more interesting than to watch the Vultures flocking up from all parts when some of their number have detected a prey, and dropped to earth to feast upon it.” ” Royal Natural History,” IV, 254. The Cinereous Vulture prefers wooded districts and constructs a bulky nest of sticks, usually in a tree, though not rarely on a rocky ledge. They deposit but a single large egg, which is white, richly marked and blotched with red.
The Griffon Vultures, of which the Common Griffon (Gyps fulvus) may be taken as the type, number some seven more or less well defined species. They are of about the same size as the Cinereous Vulture, but may be distinguished by the oval, transversely placed nostrils, and a tail of fourteen feathers. The various members of the genus range over eastern Europe, nearly the whole of Africa, and hence through Persia to India and the Malay Peninsula. They prefer the more open country and invariably nest on rocks, several often nesting near together. So far as known but a single, white, unspotted egg is laid.