Bearded vulture

The only living creature that feeds on bone marrow from carcasses in high and inaccessible mountain areas

Chme82
Chme82

The Bearded Vulture is one of the most distinctive members of the vulture family. As adults, they possess a striking appearance with an orange-rust color on their underside and a dark underwing contrasted against a slate gray back. This coloration is the result of their habit of dust-bathing in iron-rich soils, which stains their naturally white feathers to a rust-like color, a feature that becomes more pronounced as they age.

Reaching sexual maturity for these birds is a lengthy process, often taking between 5 to 7 years. Their breeding success, however, typically commences around the age of 8, when they have fully established their territories and found a suitable mate. Bearded Vultures are monogamous, often forming lifelong bonds with their partners. They engage in elaborate courtship rituals, which include high-flying displays and mutual preening.

Nesting sites are usually located on inaccessible rock ledges, where a pair will return year after year. They lay one to two eggs, but typically only one chick survives due to siblicide, where the older chick kills the younger. This is a natural occurrence that ensures the survivor has access to all the resources provided by the parents.

What truly sets the Bearded Vulture apart is its diet, which is primarily composed of bones. It is the only known bird species that almost exclusively feeds on bone marrow. Their highly acidic stomachs can digest large bones within 24 hours, an adaptation that allows them to extract nutrients from remains that other scavengers cannot utilize. To assist in breaking down larger bones, the Bearded Vulture is known for its remarkable behavior of carrying bones into the air and dropping them onto rocks below to shatter them into smaller, digestible pieces.

This bone-eating habit plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, as Bearded Vultures act as the ultimate cleaners, leaving almost nothing to waste. Their ecological niche is vital, as they prevent the spread of disease by consuming the skeletal remains that might otherwise linger in the environment.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Afghanistan
2021
Albania
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Algeria
2021
Possibly Extant
Andorra
2021
Armenia
2021
Austria
2021
Reintroduced
Azerbaijan
2021
Bhutan
2021
Bosnia And Herz.
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Bulgaria
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
China
2021
Croatia
2021
Non-Breeding
Cyprus
2021
Non-Breeding
Czechia
2021
Non-Breeding
Djibouti
2021
Possibly Extant
Egypt
2021
Eritrea
2021
Ethiopia
2021
France
2021
Georgia
2021
Germany
2021
Non-Breeding
Greece
2021
India
2021
Iran
2021
Iraq
2021
Israel
2021
Non-Breeding
Italy
2021
Reintroduced
Jordan
2021
Vagrant
Kazakhstan
2021
Kenya
2021
Kyrgyzstan
2021
Lebanon
2021
Non-Breeding
Lesotho
2021
Liechtenstein
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Mauritania
0
EX
2021
Extinct locally, Vagrant
Mongolia
2021
Montenegro
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Morocco
2021
Mozambique
2021
Non-Breeding
Namibia
2021
Non-Breeding
Nepal
2021
North Korea
2021
Non-Breeding
North Macedonia
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Pakistan
2021
Portugal
2021
Non-Breeding
Romania
2021
Non-Breeding
Russia
2021
Saudi Arabia
2021
Possibly Extinct
Serbia
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Somalia
2021
Non-Breeding
South Africa
2021
Spain
2021
Sudan
2021
Switzerland
2021
Non-Breeding
Syria
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Tajikistan
2021
Tanzania
2021
Turkey
2021
Turkmenistan
2021
Uganda
2021
Uzbekistan
2021
Yemen
2021
Zimbabwe
2021
Non-Breeding

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No