The bearded vulture, also known as the ossifrage and lammergeier, is a bird of prey and the only member of Gypaetus. This bird is also identified as the Homa bird or Huma bird in northwest Asia and Iran. Considered an Old World Traditional vulture, it forms a minor lineage of Accipitridae and the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), its nearest living relative.
The Bearded Vulture is sparsely scattered across a considerable, vast range. It lives in mountainous areas in the Pyrenees, the Arabian Peninsula, the Alps, Kashmir in India, the Zagros Mountains, the Caucasus region, the Alborz, Afghanistan, and the Koh-i-Baba Bamyan, the Altai Mountains, the Himalayas, and Ladakh in northern India. In Africa, it is observed in the Ethiopian Highlands, the Atlas Mountains, and south from Sudan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Tanzania, and central Kenya. An isolated population occupies the Drakensberg of South Africa.
This species is almost wholly associated with inselbergs and mountains with large cliffs, precipices, crags, gorges, and canyons. They are found near meadows, and alpine pastures, steep-sided, rocky wadis, montane grassland, and heath, and are sometimes around forests. They appear to prefer lightly-populated, desolate areas where predators who present many bones, such as golden eagles and wolves, have good populations.
Bearded vultures have white plumage or reddish-yellow on the head and breast with grey-black wings and tail. In the adult individual, the dark stripe over the eyes and the fibers at the bottom of the beak form the characteristic appearance of a beard- that’s why the name, Bearded vultures.
- Wingspan: 2.7m
- Height: 1.15m
- Weight: 4-8kg
Life Cycle on Bearded Vulture
The bearded vulture is a known monogamous. In Eastern Europe, it forms a pair between October and December, and eggs are laid between January and February. They normally lay two eggs, but the second egg, which is smaller, is a form of natural insurance and its older brother/sister usually kills the chick in the first few days after hatching.
The lammergeier (bearded vulture) is the only known animal that feeds almost solely on the bone (55-95%). In Crete, it is therefore known as the “bone-eater.” The bird pushes the larger bones from a height onto rocky slopes to break them and quickly descends after them in a unique spiral.
If the bone fails to break the first time, the method is often repeated numerous times until the bone ultimately breaks. The lammergeier then consumes the bone pieces starting with the delicious bone marrow.
Today’s primary threats for the vulture species include lack of food, unauthorized use of infected baits set for “vermin” such as foxes, wolves, crows, and jackals, green degradation, habitat destruction, and criminal persecution. Other causes for the reduction of the population were supreme lack of food due to environmental degradation or loss because of changes in the land use.