The Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is a large bird of prey, an accipiter, and a raptor. It is closely related to the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus).
The Bearded Vulture is dark-grey, rusty, and white. It is grey-blue to grey-black along its back with a cream-coloured forehead and orange-rust feathers on its head, chest, and legs. Its tail and wings are grey. It has black bands across its eyes. It has chin bristles that look like a beard. It has a small, feathered head with a powerful neck, long narrow wings, and a long, wedge-shaped tail. It has sharp talons (claws). When it walks, its gait appears like a waddling duck. It has bright red eye-rings.
It grows to 94-125 centimetres (37-49 inches) tall, with a wingspan of 230-283 (90-111 inches). Its tail measures 42-52 centimetres (16-20 inches).
The Bearded Vulture is native to southern Europe, the Caucasus, Africa, India, and Tibet. It prefers high mountains, cliffs, canyons, gorges, and precipes. It is also found near alpine pastures and montane grasslands.
It is a scavenger. Its diet consists mostly of animal bone from dead animals – mostly the bones of wolves and golden eagles. It is an ossifrage, which means bone breaker. Sometimes, it eats live prey, such as tortoises, hares, rock hyraxes, marmots, and monitor lizards.
It makes a large stick nest on a high cliff. The female lays 1-2 eggs, which hatch after 53-60 days. The young, called chicks, spend 100-130 days in the nest before they have their full flight feathers.
The Bearded Vulture lives, on average, for 21 years.
[Location of photographs: Berlin Zoo, Germany and Tashkent Zoo, Uzbekistan]
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM