Griffon Vulture Fact File

Gyps fulvus

Weight

6-13kg

(13.2-28.6lbs)

Length

110cm

(43in)

Lifespan

Wild 55 years

Captive 55 years

Diet

Carnivore

Carrion

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Griffon vultures are a species of old world vulture found across Europe, Asia and Africa.

Their neck is bare of feathers an important adaptation as these animals are carnivores which primarily scavenge for carcasses of deceased animals to consume.

Pairs form a nest on a cliffside in to which they deposit a single egg. Nesting takes place in groups with as many as 150 other pairs in some cases.

These animals have been threatened over time as a result of ingesting poison which has been left out. Typically they are not the intended target of these poisons.

Read on to learn more about these brilliant birds.

Appearance

The head and neck of the griffon vulture is colored white with dark brown around the eyes. Around the neck they have a collar of fluffy, white feathers. Their body, back and wings are colored light brown with the flight feathers being darker.

Their beak is well adapted for tearing the flesh of their food. It is curved at the upper tip and is colored horn.

They are equipped with grey legs and feet which are whitish along the inner thigh. Their feet are large and are used to hop across around the ground rather than walking.

Their long slender neck is an adaptation which allows them to reach their head deeper in to the carcasses of food items to tear flesh.

On the chest of the griffon vulture is a patch of bare feathers which change color as a reflection of their mood. It can vary from white to blue and red.

Their eye is colored golden brown.

An average adult griffon vulture will measure 110cm (43in) long with a weight of 6-13kg (13.2-28.6lbs). They have a wingspan of 230-265cm (7.5-8.7ft) across.

Males and females share a similar appearance but females tend to be larger than males.

Griffon vultures can be distinguished from the similar African white-backed vulture as they are larger overall and are paler in color.

Diet


Griffon vultures are carnivores. They primarily seek out carrion on which they can feed. When seeking out food they soar above and can spot food from 5km away.

They have been known to hunt live animals themselves but usually only those which are sick or injured.

With the expansion of humans they will often use rubbish dumps as a scavenging site.

After feeding they will often go past water and quickly plunge in to the water before going and spending time with their wings open to the sun to dry their plumage.

Griffon Vulture

Range

The range of the griffon vulture covers parts of Africa, Europe and Asia.

Here they can be found in the following countries – Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Cyprus; Czechia; Denmark; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; India; Iran; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Kuwait; Latvia; Lebanon; Libya; Mali; Malta; Mauritania; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Nepal; Netherlands; Niger; North Macedonia; Oman; Pakistan; Palestine; Poland; Portugal; Russia; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Switzerland; Syria; Sudan; Tajikistan; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara and Yemen.

Griffon vultures are considered to be extinct in Romania. Their population has become fragmented due to localized extinctions in many of their range states.

While considered extinct in the United Kingdom since the 1600s the species is considered an occasional vagrant in the region.

Habitat

Griffon vultures make their home in open environments such as mountains, semi-desert, shrubland and grassland.

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Reproduction

Nesting takes place on a cliff side among a colony with as many as 150 pairs though groups of 20 are more common.

They build a rather basic nest on a cliff or ledge.


Their eggs are incubated for 151-153 days by both parents. At hatching the chicks are naked of all hair.

After hatching both parents will feed the chick until it fledges at one hundred and twenty days old. Initially they are given regurgitated food. Even though they have fledged the chick is still fed for up to three months.

Adult plumage gradually develops over four years.

Behavior

The griffon vulture roosts on cliffs and will then spend the day soaring over open countryside looking out for food. They have a keen sense of eyesight allowing them to spot carcasses from miles away.

These birds are able to spend long periods of time floating due to hot currents of air known as thermals. Their wings are wide to provide further assistance with this.

When feeding or near its nest the griffon vulture is relatively noisy creating a hiss or cackle. In flight they are mostly silent.

Most populations of these birds are resident but others are migratory and move to Africa to overwinter.

Griffon Vulture

Predators and Threats

One of the main threats to the survival of the griffon vulture is the laying of poison baits which may be directly consumed by this species or they may face secondary poisoning through consumption of their food.

Changes in livestock management practices has led to a decline in available food.

Quick facts

This species may also be known as the European griffon or simply the griffon.

These birds are a species of old world vulture.

Griffon vultures are considered to be the second largest bird found in Europe.

Griffon Vulture

Photo Credits

Top

Вых Пыхманн, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Uoaei1, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Artemy Voikhansky, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.

BirdLife International. 2017. Gyps fulvus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22695219A118593677. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22695219A118593677.en. Downloaded on 08 September 2021.

Bird Fact. 2021. Griffon Vulture Bird Facts (Gyps fulvus). [online] Available at: <https://birdfact.com/birds/griffon-vulture> [Accessed 9 September 2021].

Jungledragon.com. 2021. Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) – JungleDragon. [online] Available at: <https://www.jungledragon.com/specie/388/griffon_vulture.html> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

Vulture Conservation Foundation. 2021. Griffon Vulture – Vulture Conservation Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://4vultures.org/vultures/griffon-vulture/> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

Beautyofbirds.com. 2021. Griffon Vultures | Beauty of Birds. [online] Available at: <https://www.beautyofbirds.com/griffonvultures.html> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

Birdid.no. 2021. Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) -> Griffon Vulture (Aegypius monachus) – BirdID’s Bird Guide – Nord University – Birdid. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdid.no/bird/eBook.php?compareSpecieID=1264&specieID=1508> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

Oiseaux-birds.com. 2021. The Eurasian Griffon Vulture. [online] Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/article-griffon-vulture.html> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

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