The Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is also known as the Black Vulture, Monk Vulture, or the Cinereous Vulture. It is a member of the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, buzzards and harriers.
This bird is an Old World vulture, and is not related to the New World vultures, which are in a separate family, Cathartidae. It is therefore unrelated to the American Black Vulture despite the similar name and coloration.
It breeds across southern Europe and Asia from Spain to Korea, but is endangered throughout its European range. It is resident except in those parts of its range where hard winters cause limited movement.
It is the largest bird of prey (Falconiformes) in the world, though nearly equalled by the Lappet-faced Vulture and the Himalayan Griffon Vulture. The Andean Condor, slightly larger, was formerly thought to be the largest, but the Cathartidae are no longer considered true birds of prey. This huge bird is 98–110 cm (39-44 in) long with a 250–300 cm (99-119 in) wingspan and a weight of 7–14 kg (15.5-31 lbs), and is thus one of the world's heaviest flying birds. It breeds in high mountains and large forests, nesting in trees or occasionally on cliff ledges. It has all dark blackish-brown plumage, and even at a distance can be distinguished from Griffon Vulture by its evenly broad "barn door" wings. It has the typical vulture unfeathered bald head (actually covered in fine down), and dark markings around the eye give it a menacing skull-like appearance. The beak is brown, with a blue-grey cere, and the legs and feet are grey.
It is on average larger than mostly sympatric Griffon Vulture. Among the vultures in its range, the Eurasian Black Vulture is best equipped to tear open tough carcass skins, using its powerful bill. It is dominant over other vultures at carcasses.
It can fly at a very high altitude. It has a specialised haemoglobin alphaD subunit of high oxygen affinity which makes it possible to take up oxygen efficiently despite the low partial pressure in the upper troposphere.