The aim of this study was to record the Schirmer tear test I (STT I) measurements in free-living vultures in order to estimate normal values. The Eurasian black vulture (Aegypius monachus), which breeds in the Mediterranean region and Asia, is listed as near threatened; it is also classified as vulnerable at the European level and endangered in Greece. The griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), once widespread across the continent, has undergone a dramatic decline which has led to its extinction in many regions. Sixty-two animals were examined in total including 54 black vultures and 8 griffon vultures. The birds were classified into five age groups while four age groups were then combined into one large group: free-flying. STT I measurements and complete ophthalmic examinations were performed. Mean STT I value for black vultures was 10.9 ± 3.3 mm/min (right eye, oculus dexter, OD) and 11.9 ± 3.3 mm/min (left eye, oculus sinister, OS) and for griffon vultures was 6.4 ± 1.8 mm/min OD and 6.5 ± 1.8 mm/min OS. In both eyes, STT I values in black vultures were significantly higher than those recorded in griffon vultures. Intraspecific comparisons yielded a significant difference between eyes of black vultures but not between those of griffon vultures, with OS producing higher STT I readings than did OD. When STT I was compared between OD and OS for each age group separately, a statistically significant difference was detected in the immature and free-flying black vultures. In addition, black vulture hatchlings had a significantly higher tear production than did free-flying juveniles, immatures, subadults, and adults. STT I values in black vultures are similar to those reported in other Accipitriformes but are lower in griffon vultures. This difference is probably related to anatomic, evolutionary, and feeding factors and requires further investigation.
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