Bearded Vulture - Gypaetus barbatus
The bird’s French name ‘Gypaète barbu’ is derived from Gypaetus, from the Greek gups “vulture” and aétos “eagle”, and barbatus (bearded in Latin) which refers to a tuft of dark ‘beard’ feathers underneath its beak. It gets its Spanish name - ‘quebrantahuesos’ or “bone breaker” - from its diet: the Bearded Vulture drops the biggest bones from a height of between 50 and 100 metres and eats the fragments and ligaments. In Greece, it is called the ‘kélonifagi’, which means “which eats tortoises”. The Souda, a Greek encyclopedia, tells of a legend in which the Greek playwright Aeschylus was said to have been killed by a tortoise dropped by a bird of prey flying over his head. It is likely that the bird mentioned was either the Bearded Vulture or the Golden Eagle.
At Le Rocher des Aigles: we are currently the only place in Europe to allow a Bearded Vulture to fly in complete freedom. Its progress is being monitored by CNRS scientists.
CLASS : Aves
ORDER : Falconiformes
FAMILY : Accipitridae
WINGSPAN : 2.6 – 2.9 m
WEIGHT : 5 - 7 kg
CLUTCH SIZE : 2 eggs
INCUBATION : 53-58 days
LIFE EXPECTANCY : over 40 years in captivity
DIET : 85% bones and ligaments, 15% meat
NATURAL HABITAT : it lives in mountains and rocky areas, nesting in cliffs and feeding in open areas
RANGE : Asia, Spain, France (Pyrenees, Alps, Cévennes, Corsica), Africa, Middle East
Conservation status info
NT : Near Threatened
The Beared Vulture’s status has shifted from LC (Least Concern) to NT (Near Threatened). The species went into a steep decline in the 19th and 20th centuries and the population is still dwindling worldwide. The primary threats are poisoning, direct persecution, habitat degradation, disturbances at the nesting site or the destruction of nests, the reduction in livestock farms, the reduction in food sources, collisions with power lines and hunting (this species is used in traditional medicine). The use of herbicide, insecticide and fungicide may also have an effect. However, thanks to active protection and captive breeding programmes, a few populations are slowly beginning to recover. In Europe, the Bearded Vulture is classified as VU (vulnerable).