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Bearded Vulture
Gypaetus barbatus

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Lammergeier, Lammergeyer, Ossifrage.

Gypaetus barbatus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa east through Middle East to northeastern CHINA south to the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and (disjunctly) in SOUTH AFRICA, including LESOTHO. more....

Subspecies: 2 races. G. b. barbatus: Northwestern Africa and southwestern Europe through TURKEY, EGYPT, Middle East, IRAN, and AFGHANISTAN to MONGOLIA and central and northeastern CHINA; G. b. meridionalis: Southwestern Arabia, ETHIOPIA, East Africa (Rift Valley), and a disjunct population in SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Taxonomy: Amadon and Bull (1988) suggested that this species is not a true vulture and that its closest relative may be the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. This was also the conclusion of Wink (1995), Siebold and Helbig (1995), Wink and Seibold (1996), and Wink et al. (1998), based on the nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Their data confirmed the existence of a Neophron-Gypaetus clade that is separate and basal to other Old World vultures. This finding is in agreement with karyological (De Boer and Sinoo 1994), morphological (Jollie 1976), and embryological data (Thaler et al. 1986). The more recent molecular studies of Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on the molecular sequences from one nuclear and two mitochondrial genes, also confirmed that Gypaetus barbatus and Neophron percnopterus are sister species, forming a clade, Gypaetinae, which also includes the Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) and the Madagascar Serpent Eagle (Eutriorchis astur). Each is highly divergent from each other genetically, but they are still more closely related to each other than to other accipitrine species. more....

Movements: Partial migrant and altitudinal migrant (Bildstein 2006). There is a good bit of post-breeding dispersal, and young birds may wander widely. A breeding adult tracked with radiotelemetry in Georgia was a year-round resident (Gavashelishvili and McGrady 2007), and this behavior has been observed or assumed in other parts of the range. In contrast, two wintering subadult Bearded Vultures at Choksung, central Korea equipped with PTT transmitters both summered in central Mongolia, but arrived there via different routes (Kim 2007). more....

Habitat and Habits: This species is invariably associated with mountainous terrain throughout its vast range. It soars continuously over ridges and gorges, often at great heights, sometimes hanging in the wind, searching for carrion. It also occurs over plains and lowlands far from montane areas. In some parts of its African range, juveniles, but rarely adults, are numerous in areas of dense human settlements, where they feed at refuse dumps. Perches on rocks or cliffs. Territorial when breeding, but foraging ranges overlap among pairs. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: In most parts of its range, this species is mostly dependent upon mortality among domestic animals. It feeds primarily on bones and bone marrow, although other portions of carcasses, are also taken, and it may also attack live hares, lambs, and young ibex in Armenia (Adamian and Klem 1999), or rock hyraxes and reptiles elsewhere. It has the remarkable habit of picking up bones too large to swallow with its feet and dropping them onto rocks ("ossuaries") below to break them into fragments, which it devours on the ground. more....

Breeding: A solitary nester, it builds a large, rough stick nest lined with smaller sticks, wool, hair, and rags and placed on sheltered ledges of rock cliffs, or in potholes. The same nest is used in successive years. but pairs do not breed in every year. Clutch size is 1-2 eggs, rarely 3, and the eggs are buffy or pinkish and with a suffusion of fine dark brown and purplish-brown spots. The incubation period is 55-60 days, and the nestling period is about 15-16 weeks (105-112 days) (Tarboton 1990, Shirihai 1996). Generally, only one chick survives. more....

Conservation: Common in many portions of its range, but locally rare and declining in several sub-regions, especially in southern Africa. This species experienced a massive decline in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries due to persecution (mostly shooting), use of poisoned baits, habitat loss, and reduction in livestock farming (Thiollay 1994). The original population in the Alps was completely extinct by the beginning of the 20th century. An ambitious and highly successful reintroduction program has been underway in the Alps since the late 1970s under the direction of the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (Frey et al. 1995). This species is considered to be Vulnerable in the European portion of its breeding range, but is regarded globally as a species of "Near Threatened" by BirdLife International 2016. more....

Population Estimates: The European breeding population is small (from 610-1,000 breeding pairs), although Europe represents about one quarter of the range of the species (BirdLife International 2004). This is a substantial increase from the 2000 estimate of 190-210 breeding pairs (BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council 2000). Abudalze and Shergalin (1998) estimated the number of nesting pairs in Greater Caucasian region at 115-125 nesting pairs. According to Sonja Krüger (in litt.), Chris Brown estimated that only 204 pairs still survived in southern Africa (Mundy et al. 1992). Krüger and her colleagues have recently surveyed almost all of the range in South Africa and Lesotho, and they confirmed 181 nests, of which 92 have been active during the past three years. She suggests that the population there has declined from 33-50%. more....

Important References: 
Báguena, G., E. Sánchez-Castilla, and R.J. Antor (eds.). 2007. [Criteria
  for the reintroduction of a threatened species: the Bearded Vulture in Picos
  de Europa National Park]. Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales, Ministerio
  de Medio Ambiente, Madrid, Spain. (In Spanish)
Frey, H., J. Kurzweil, and M. Bijlveld. 1995. The breeding network -- an
  analysis of the period 1978 to 1995. Pp. 13-38 in H. Frey, J. Kurzweil, and
  M. Bijlveld (eds.), Bearded Vulture reintroduction into the Alps: annual
  report 1995. Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture, Vienna,
Gil, J.A., O. Diez, L. Lorente, G. Baguena, G. Cheliz, and J.C. Ascaso.
  2009. On the trail of the Bearded Vulture: world distribution and population
  [Tras el vuelo del Quebrantahuesos: distribución y población mundial].
  Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos, Huesca, Spain.
Margalida, A., and R Heredia (eds.). 2005. [Biology and conservation of
  the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in Spain]. Organismo Autónomo
  Parques Nacionales, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Madrid, Spain. (In
Mundy, P., D. Butchart, J. Ledger, and S. Piper. 1992. Bearded Vulture,
  Gypaetus barbatus. Pp. 202-219 in The vultures of Africa. Academic Press,
Orta, J. 1994. Bearded Vulture. P. 125 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J.
  Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures
  to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Sakoulis, A., M. Probonas, and S. Xirouchakis (eds.). 2001. Proceedings of
  the 4th Bearded Vulture Workshop, 14-19 July 2000, Irakleio, Crete, Greece.
  Natural History Museum of Crete, University of Crete, Greece.
Terrasse, J.F. 2001. [The Bearded Vulture]. Delachaux et Niestlé, Geneva,
  Switzerland. (In French)
Zink, R. 2003. [Lammergeier Project: 25 years of reintroduction in the
  Alps.] Falke 50:76-81.

Sites of Interest:
La Fundación Gypaetus
An organization working for the conservation and recovery of the Bearded Vulture in Andalucia.
Conservation of the Bearded Vulture in Greece
Natural history information and details of the release project in Crete and mainland Greece.
Bearded Vulture Reintroduction into the Alps
Contains details on the first nesting in Swtizerland in 100 years.
Pyrénées Vivantes
Bearded Vultures in the Pyrenees.
Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos
FCQ is focused on the recovery of the Bearded Vulture in the Spanish mountains.
Species account, emphasizing European populations.
Bearded Vulture photos.

Bhusal, Krishna
Camina, Alvaro
Demerdzhiev, Dimitar
Dobrev, Dobromir
Gombobaatar, Sundev
Gurung, Surya
Katzner, Todd E.
Khadka, Bidur
Krüger, Sonja
Margalida, Antoni
McGrady, Mike
Naoroji, Rishad K.
Öztürk, Yasemin
Villers, Alexandre

Last modified: 2/5/2016

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Oct. 2021

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