This portrait was done for practice, so I could work on some oil painting techniques. The subject is one I hope to do a more formal painting of some day, the Cinerous Vulture, which is also sometimes called the Black, or Eurasian Black Vulture, not to be confused with the unrelated American species called the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), which is in the family Cathartidae, that includes the condors and is restricted to the western hemisphere.
The Cinerous is huge, and can weigh in at about 14 kg (around 30 pounds) with a wing span that can exceed 3.1 meters – more than ten feet! Males are smaller than females. Someone said they look like a flying barn door, but are very graceful flyers, truly masters of air currents as I saw for myself when, awestruck, I witnessed my first ones in the wild, in southern Portugal, some years ago. This species has a disjunct range, being found in Spain, Portugal, southern France and other parts of the western Mediterranean, but also in the Middle-east and Asia Minor and parts of Asia, as far east as Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea and some northern parts of China, even on high, cold plateaus. In fact they are mostly a bird of lonely, remote wildernesses.
While very dark overall, their heads, which are only partially feathered, are coloured in shades of light blue, pink, white and black, but in patterns that are highly variable. They eat mostly carrion, and because of their size they dominate other avian scavengers such as ravens, crows and other vultures. They are largely solitary. Some scholars believe that references to “eagles” in the Christian bible probably refers to this species.
The painting is in oils and is approximately 12 X 9 inches on a linen panel.
Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905) 472 973
31 Colonel Butler Drive
Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada