Bandhavgarh national Park is situated in Umaria distt of Madhya Pradesh India. Four species of Vultures Long-Billed Gyps indicus, Red-Headed Aegypius calvus,Egyptian Neophron percnopterus and Whit-rumped Gyps bengalensis -are resident here. On May 28, 2008 at 0701 am we spotted a White -rumped Vulture near a stream in the Dadra meadow. It appeared sickly in a sitting posture with head bowed. Nearby a couple of Red-headed Vultures were feeding on a carcass of what appeared to be another dead vulture. At 0705 am while we still watched the sickly bird walk further away, a Red-headed Vulture flew from a nearby tree and landed on the unaware bird, followed by another within seconds.
By now the first vulture was pecking at the white rumped as it sat on its back. The White-rumped Vulture tried to defend itself by counter attacking with its beak, but it seemed unable to escape the grips of the heavier and healthier bird anchored on its back. The second Red-headed Vulture appeared unwilling to join the attack, possibly due to hierarchy, and simply stood watching.
After ten minutes of suffering,the White-rumped Vulture manage to escape and hop off to safety after the Red-headed Vulture became distracted by more arrivals.There were no further attacks on the bird for the following fifteen minutes.
The following morning at the same spot there was a gathering of 8 or 9 Red-headed Vultures. They were feeding on the carcass of a recently dead White-rumped Vulture. One bird appeared dominant and as it fed the others stood around watching. It is probable that this was the carcass of sick looking White-rumped Vulture we have observed the previous day.
Vultures feeding on dead Vultures may not be uncommon in Bandhavgarh, however, it is the first time that Vultures appearing to attack sick looking Vultures for food has been documented.
Surely this does not mean that these vultures in Bandhavgarh are facing any kind of starvation. This could be a case of opportunist behaviour for getting easy convenient.
Expert Comments: The Vulture sitting on the back of the White-rumped Vulture is a regular posture of an attacking Vulture. Vultures do this for driving other Vultures from food or a perch. It is unlikely that a Red-headed Vulture was attempting to kill White-rumped Vulture. Vultures do sometime takes live prey, but only small ones like Turtles,Rats or Lizards. Vultures do sometime feed on other dead Vultures.
This was published in Bombay Natural History Society journal, Hornbill, Jan-March, 2009.
We thought and our thought were confirmed by Mr Patric Benson and Mr Munir that this bird was a juvenile Long-billed Vulture but BNHS people thought it otherwise hence it published as White-backed Vulture.