The red coloration of the bearded vulture is cosmetically acquired by bathing in iron-rich spring water and can vary in shade.
Juvenile bearded vultures have a much different physical appearance than adults and appear dark all over.
Male and female bearded vultures are very similar in appearance, but females are slightly larger on average.
Unlike most vultures, bearded vultures lack a bald head and have fully feathered neck and legs, likely due to eating bones rather than carrion.
Bearded vultures are named for the long, broad, black bristles that grow from the base of the bill that resemble a beard.
Bearded vultures use ossuaries, rocky bone-dropping sites, to break apart large bones by dropping them from up to 150m in the air.
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.
Inhabiting remote, desolate cliffs overlooking open grasslands gives bearded vultures easy access to the remains of hunted-down prey.
Bearded vultures are rarely vocal birds, but make loud chuckling noises during courting.
Most bearded vultures are monogamous and heterosexual, but male-male mounting occurs within polyandrous trios, likely to regulate aggression.
Bearded vultures are diurnal and often perform aerial displays, mutual circling, and high-speed chases for social play and courtship.
Like other Old World vultures, bearded vultures have poor sense of smell, causing them to rely on excellent eyesight for locating carcasses.
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.
Male bearded vultures build nests with branches and animal remains and have several within a single territory, rotating between them, yearly.
61% of the bearded vulture’s diet consists of medium-sized ungulates, which the birds force off cliffs with vigorous beating of their wings.
Bearded vultures are territorial and have extremely large home territories that range from 250-700 square km.
The bearded vulture breeding period varies depending on the region and takes about 177 days from egg-laying to fledgling.
Both bearded vulture parents care for their young, and unlike other vultures, deliver prey to the chicks without regurgitation.
The range of bearded vultures extends 3 continents, across southern Europe and Asia and throughout portions Africa.
Bearded vultures lay 1-3 eggs but tend to favor the oldest chick, even allowing it to cannibalize the other chicks.
Bearded vultures have a high stomach acid content that allows them to digest bones up to 10cm and 4kg, within a 24-hour period.
A male bearded vultures will defend the nest to allow the female to conserve energy and assess his breeding potential.
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.
Although bearded vultures are “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List, they are endangered in Europe, with less than 150 territories remaining.
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.
Bearded vultures are strictly carnivorous but have a unique diet consisting mainly of bones and carrion, with bones making up 85%.
As carrion scavengers, bearded vultures contribute to rotting carcass removal and help control disease within ecosystems.
Bearded vultures prefer fatty bones for their oleic acid, associated with increased energy and foraging time optimization.
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.
The bearded vulture is known as “Lammergeier,” German for “lamb-vulture,” as they were mistakenly assumed to kill livestock. Today, they continue to face persecution for this myth.
Bearded vultures perch on rocks, rather than tree branches, with a characteristic hunched shoulder position.
There are up to 13 subspecies of bearded vultures, though most lack sufficient grounds to be considered.