FaunaFocus

Monthly Archives: May 2018

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The red coloration of the bearded vulture is cosmetically acquired by bathing in iron-rich spring water and can vary in shade.

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Juvenile bearded vultures have a much different physical appearance than adults and appear dark all over.

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Male and female bearded vultures are very similar in appearance, but females are slightly larger on average.

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Unlike most vultures, bearded vultures lack a bald head and have fully feathered neck and legs, likely due to eating bones rather than carrion.

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Bearded vultures are named for the long, broad, black bristles that grow from the base of the bill that resemble a beard.

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Bearded vultures use ossuaries, rocky bone-dropping sites, to break apart large bones by dropping them from up to 150m in the air.

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The bearded vulture is a long-lived bird with a mean lifespan of 21.4 years in the wild, but can live over 45 years in captivity.

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Inhabiting remote, desolate cliffs overlooking open grasslands gives bearded vultures easy access to the remains of hunted-down prey.

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Bearded vultures are rarely vocal birds, but make loud chuckling noises during courting.

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Most bearded vultures are monogamous and heterosexual, but male-male mounting occurs within polyandrous trios, likely to regulate aggression.

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Bearded vultures are diurnal and often perform aerial displays, mutual circling, and high-speed chases for social play and courtship.

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Like other Old World vultures, bearded vultures have poor sense of smell, causing them to rely on excellent eyesight for locating carcasses.

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Female bearded vultures in polyandrous trios prefer mating with the alpha male, but will also mate with the beta to increase the likelihood of successful nesting.

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Male bearded vultures build nests with branches and animal remains and have several within a single territory, rotating between them, yearly.

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61% of the bearded vulture’s diet consists of medium-sized ungulates, which the birds force off cliffs with vigorous beating of their wings.

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Bearded vultures are territorial and have extremely large home territories that range from 250-700 square km.

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The bearded vulture breeding period varies depending on the region and takes about 177 days from egg-laying to fledgling.

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Both bearded vulture parents care for their young, and unlike other vultures, deliver prey to the chicks without regurgitation.

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The range of bearded vultures extends 3 continents, across southern Europe and Asia and throughout portions Africa.

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Bearded vultures lay 1-3 eggs but tend to favor the oldest chick, even allowing it to cannibalize the other chicks.

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Bearded vultures have a high stomach acid content that allows them to digest bones up to 10cm and 4kg, within a 24-hour period.

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A male bearded vultures will defend the nest to allow the female to conserve energy and assess his breeding potential.

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The bearded vulture’s breeding success is influenced by human activity and kleptoparasitism by common ravens, golden eagles, griffon vultures, and even other bearded vultures.

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Although bearded vultures are “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List, they are endangered in Europe, with less than 150 territories remaining.

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Male bearded vultures tend to mate in the evening after foraging, a form of sperm competition as males fight to be the last to breed with a female.

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Bearded vultures are strictly carnivorous but have a unique diet consisting mainly of bones and carrion, with bones making up 85%.

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As carrion scavengers, bearded vultures contribute to rotting carcass removal and help control disease within ecosystems.

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Bearded vultures prefer fatty bones for their oleic acid, associated with increased energy and foraging time optimization.

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Bearded vultures have declined 25-29% over the past 3 generations, except in northern Spain, due to poisoning, habitat degradation, and disturbance of breeding sites.