[order] Falconiformes | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Gypaetus barbatus | [UK] Lammergeier | [FR] Gypačte barbu | [DE] Bartgeier | [ES] Quebrantahuesos | [IT] Avvoltoio barbuto | [NL] Lammergier

Lammergier determination

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Large (Europe's biggest) raptor with small "beard" of feathers.Black wings, wedge-shaped tail, red eye-ring and facial mask, neck and underparts orange, resulting from impregnation by mineral particles Juvenile all dark, with broader wings. Race meridionalis has lower tarsus unfeathered and lacks incipient breast band, facial pattern clearer, as lacks black markings and feathers on cheeks and crown.

The Lammergeier forages over montane and sub-alpine vegetation, mostly above 1000 m, where both domestic and wild ungulates occur. In winter and early spring it exploits mid-altitude and steep-cliff areas where snow does not accumulate. In the Pyrenees, during winter and spring, the bird visits the muladares, which are places near the villages where domestic animal carcasses are dumped regularly.

The species is sedentary. The global population is not concentrated in Europe, but the species persists in Spain (Pyrenees), Turkey, France (Pyrenees and Corsica) and Greece (Crete and the continent). The European population is 162 breeding pairs, with 93 in the EU; additionally North Africa has 5 pairs in Morocco. Only the Spanish and Turkish populations number 50 breeding pairs or more.
The Lammergeier is widely distributed in mountainous regions in Eurasia and Africa with a small proportion of its global range in Europe. There are apparently large populations in East Africa, Central Asia and the Himalayas. The species is resident throughout its range. In Europe, the species now breeds only in Andorra, Spain (regions of Navarra, Aragón and Cataluńa, all in the Pyrenees), France (Pyrenees, Corsica and the Alps), Greece (in Crete and on the continent in Thrace, Epirus, Thessaly and the Pindus range), Turkey (throughout Anatolia) and in North Africa, only in Morocco (Atlas range). The total population for Europe and North Africa is ca. 167 pairs of which 148 breed regularly, including 112 pairs in the EU of which 93 breed regularly.
The species was exterminated from Germany by 1855, Switzerland 1884, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1893, Austria 1906, Italy 1913, Romania 1935, Czechoslovakia 1942, Yogoslavia (Serbia, Montenegro) 1956, Bulgaria 1966, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1990. The decline continued during 1970-1990 in Greece and Albania. However, the species is locally stable, or decreasing only slightly in Russia, stable in Turkey and France and increasing in Spain. A reintroduction project in the Alps (Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland) has released 68 captive bred birds during 1986-1996 at 5 release sites. The number of free-flying birds is estimated at 38-43. One pair laid eggs in the French Alps in 1996 and hatched one chick in 1997.
The decline is still progressing in Greece. Its main reasons are direct persecution and poisoning. Recently habitat loss, lack of food resources due to abandonment of extensive livestock economy and disturbance by tourism and recreational activities have also had adverse effects.

The diet of the Lammergeier consists of bones (up to 85% of diet), especially large bones and flesh taken from dead animals. It breaks large bones into small pieces which it can eat by flying up with the bone and dropping it on special rocky slopes. Small animals (birds and rodents) are fed to chicks, forming an important part of their diet.
In the Pyrenees: 88% of prey items are mammals, mainly domestic ungulates (extremities of sheep and goat), Chamois and Marmot ,birds but rarely reptiles. In Corsica the diet is mainly limbs of domestic ungulates (36% sheep and goat, 33% cattle, mostly calves), pigs, both wild and domestic (16%), Mouflon (12%); birds and reptiles are scarce in the diet. Breeding success on Corsica seems to depend on particular stock rearing activities as their main food source is transhumant caprines and free range cattle. In the Alps, the main diet of the released birds is Chamois and sheep.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 10,000-100,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of a population decline (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001), but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

The Lammergeier breeds in caves and on cliffs in mountain ranges at 400-2000 metres above sealevel. It builds a bulky stick nest and lays one or two eggs from late December to early March. Both adults participate in incubation. After 54-58 days the young hatch in February or March and after 112-119 days they fledge in June. Although both chicks may hatch one normally dies due to sibling agression; one of the few records of both chicks fledging is from Ethiopia in 1996. The young remain in the area until the beginning of the next breeding cycle in November. Sexual maturity is at about seven years or later .
Usually monogamous. Polyandrous trios, normally two males and one female, were first recorded in the Pyrenees in 1979. Numbers of such records have increased ever since including in Corsica; 14% of the breeding territories in the Pyrenees were occupied by trios in 1996. Trios have similar reproductive success to that of the pairs which formerly occupied the same territories and also to that of neighbouring pairs. The formation of trios has been attributed to biased sex ratios, low food availability, high breeding density or genetic relatedness between males, but as yet there is no proof of which is the key factor. The phenomenon could have important implications for conservation of the Lammergeier.

It is largely a resident species, although with enormous home ranges and the young may disperse widely. Although there have been more than 100 sightings of Lammergeiers outside the Pyrenees since the late 1980s, none of the 33 young wing tagged in the Pyrenees during 1987-1996 were seen among them. The average home range of 13 of these young was 4,932 (950-10,294) sq km. No adults have so far been wing tagged or radio tagged. In the Alps 70% of the released birds return to the release site although one bird was recorded ca. 1,300 km from the release area, outside the Alps. So Juveniles and immatures stay mainly within natal mountain system, and appear to straggle less than other west Palearctic vultures; but forage down to foothills.