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Bearded vulture

Gypaetus barbatus

Photo by Dan Logen (The Guardian)

Common name:
bearded vulture (en); quebra-ossos (pt); gypaète barbu (fr); quebrantahuesos (es); bartgeier (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species is patchily distributed in southern Europe, from northern Spain to Austria, in Morocco and northern Algeria, from Greece, through Turkey and the Middle East and into Mongolia and China, in north-eastern Africa from Egypt to northern Tanzania, and in eastern South Africa.

These birds are 95-125 cm long and have a wingspan of 230-285 cm. They weigh 4,5-7 kg.

The bearded vulture is mostly found in rocky mountainous areas, also foraging over grasslands, scrublands and sometimes even in urban areas. They are present at altitudes of 1.000-7.500 m.

They are scavengers, specializing at feeding on bones. The small bones are eaten whole, while the larger bones are carried into the air, and dropped from height onto rocks below, which results in the bones shattering on the rocks, provides the bird with access to the nutritious marrow inside.

Bearded vultures are typically monogamous, although polyandrous trios are known to occur in some areas. They can breed all year round, varying geographically and the nest is a massive pile of branches lined with wool, dung, dried skin and sometimes even rubbish, placed on a rocky outcrop in a cliff. The female lays 1-2 greyish eggs with light brown blotches, which are incubated for 53-60 days. The chicks fledge 100-130 days after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at 8-9 years of age.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 1.300-6.700 individuals. The population is declining throughout its range with the exception of northern Spain where the it has increased in recent decades. The main factors affecting bearded vulture populations are poisoning, both accidental and targeted, as well as habitat degradation, disturbance of breeding site and collision with power lines, but the species is not considered threatened at present.

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