Place to admire: Austria
Scientific name: Gyps fulvus
IUCN-status: Least concern
The Griffon Vulture has an IUCN status of Least concern and its population is actually increasing in the wild. This does not mean that we should not protect this bird species, because thanks to human activities, Vale Vultures are disappearing in the wild. This is mainly due to the poisoning of carcasses by humans, a decrease in intensive livestock farming and the illegal shooting of the Vulture.
The Griffon Vulture lives in northwestern Africa, east of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) to the Balkans. In addition, this bird species lives in Turkey, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and from Iran to Tajikistan and Altaj.
The Griffon Vulture occurs in temperate climate and dry climate with vast open areas. The Vale Vulture occurs in mountains, high plains, steppe and semi-deserts with abrupt rocky areas, such as cliffs and chalk cliffs. The rocks and chalk cliffs are used as nesting and roosting sites. The Griffon Vulture prefers dry and sunny areas, but of course this bird species depends on the availability of food (carcasses). The Griffon Vulture breeds at high altitudes, from sea level cliffs up to 2,750 meters.
The Griffon Vulture prefers vertical cliffs to use as nesting and roosting sites. However, this bird species has also already adapted to nest in trees.
The Griffon Vulture is known as a scavenger and eats (almost) exclusively carrion. This bird species feeds primarily on the muscles and intestines of medium and large mammals (especially ungulates). Originally, the Vale Vulture ate carrion from wild prey animals, including mountain goats, deer and gazelles.
Today, domesticated species, including sheep, goats, cows and horses, have taken this place. These species have taken the full place of the original wild species and the Vulture has become entirely dependent on them. Sometimes the Vulture also eats carrion from other mammals, such as carnivores, rabbits, hares and cetaceans. This occurs when the above animals are not available.
The Griffon Vulture has a size of 95 to 110 centimeters. This species of bird weighs between 6 kilograms and 11 kilograms. The Vale Vulture has a white head, neck and collar. The primaries and tail feathers turn dark brown to black. The wings of the Barred Vulture have a wingspan of 240 to 280 centimeters.
The Griffon Vulture is very similar in appearance to other vulture species, such as the Himalayan Vulture, the Bengal Vulture, the Indian Vulture and the White-backed Vulture. The Vale Vulture is slightly smaller and slightly browner than the Himalayan Vulture. The Vale Vulture is larger and generally paler than the Bengal Vulture, Indian Vulture and White-backed Vulture.
The Griffon Vulture is the most social species of the four European vulture species. This species of bird lives in groups, which is also called colonies. The Griffon Vulture eats in groups, rests and breeds in large colonies consisting of as many as hundreds of individuals. Within the colony, the Griffon Vultures maintain a social hierarchy, which is based on body size, age, sex and dominance.
The Griffon Vulture lives monogamously and enters into a lifelong relationship with his/her mate. To select the suitable mate, the Vulture first searches for a suitable candidate. This suitable candidate must fall into the same social status and have good health to serve as a mate. After mating, the pair forms strong pair bonds, which are maintained throughout the year through mating calls.
The Griffon Vulture lives in colonies as many as 40 vultures together. The Vulture lives monogamous and stays with the same partner throughout his/her life. Surely that is true love!
The carcasses not only serve as food, but Griffon Vultures also use carcasses for social purposes. Individual Vultures sometimes visit the same carcasses for consecutive days (while already satiated from their first visit). During the visit, the individual displays friendly (or hostile) behaviors toward others unrelated to eating.
The Griffon Vulture does not use its sense of smell to detect carrion, but it relies entirely on its excellent eyesight. This bird species cooperates with conspecifics to search for food. It spreads out up to 10 kilometers away from the colony or roost to gather food.
During its flight, the Griffon Vulture can detect carrion from a great distance. When the Griffon Vulture has found carrion, it lowers its legs. After this, it gives a signal, indicating that it is going to land. The other Vultures of its colony gather in sight when it has found a carcass (carrion). They eat the entire carcass as a group, starting at the mouth and anus. They eat the entire carcass in a relatively short time.
Thanks to the structure of its wings, the Griffon Vulture uses gliding flight. This type of flight minimizes the animal’s energy. Using rising air currents, the Griffon Vulture flies around. Despite flying slowly in the air, the Griffon Vulture can reach speeds of over 70 kilometers per hour!