Cinereous Vulture’s Astonishing Return to Delhi: A 54-Year Hiatus Ends

December 12, 2023: In a remarkable turn of events, the cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) has broken its five-decade-long silence in Delhi, gracing the skies of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. This unprecedented sighting on December 9 has set bird enthusiasts abuzz, capturing the attention of nature lovers and conservationists across the region.

Renowned retired scientist and devoted birder, Surya Prakash, played witness to this historic moment as he spotted the cinereous vulture soaring over Neeli Jheel within the sanctuary. According to Prakash’s meticulous records, this marks the first time the cinereous vulture has been seen in Delhi-NCR in the last thirty years, reviving a long-lost connection between the majestic bird and the city.

The last documented record of the cinereous vulture’s presence in the region dates back to 1969, leaving a gap of 54 years before its reappearance. Surya Prakash, armed with his camera, managed to capture stunning images of the bird, confirming its identity and providing a visual record of this rare event.

During the encounter, Prakash observed the cinereous vulture accompanied by an Egyptian vulture, with two persistent black kites engaging in an aerial display. Despite the challenging circumstances, Prakash skillfully documented the bird’s flight, shedding light on the captivating interaction between these avian species.


Reflecting on the encounter, Surya Prakash shared, “It was around 10 am, not the usual time for birding, but good for raptors. These are heavy birds, and thermal currents at this hour of the day help them gain altitude with less energy. We saw some raptors soaring. I saw some black kites chasing one big raptor. Some Egyptian vultures were tailing to it. It came down a little, so I took some photos.”

The cinereous vulture, classified as “near threatened,” stands as one of the largest and heaviest raptors globally, boasting an impressive three-meter wingspan. Its dark brown plumage, striking white patches near the beak, and significant size have earned it the moniker of the black vulture. The return of this rare species to Delhi emphasizes the importance of preserving natural habitats and biodiversity, sparking discussions among experts about the ecological implications of its reappearance.

As the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary becomes a focal point for birdwatchers and conservationists, the cinereous vulture’s return serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance in ecosystems and the continuous need for dedicated conservation efforts.