bearded vulture

The use of poison in Spain…. What is it killing?

March 21st, 2014

aparecen-envenenadas-1With the latest news coming from Zamora that includes a Spanish Imperial eagle, amongst other carrion birds, killed from the consequences of poisoning, I thought I’d have a search around the net for similar news and information.

The Vulture Conservation Council has an interesting page explaining the use of poisons that has affected Spanish Vultures.

A large number of vulture deaths in Europe can be attributed every year to poisoning, arguably the most important threat impacting on vultures today. Figures from Spain are illustrative – data from the Spanish ministry of agriculture show that between the years 2000 and 2010 a total of 40 bearded vultures, 638 black vultures, 348 Egyptian vultures and 2,146 griffon vultures were found poisoned. (The recent extinction of the bearded vulture in the Balkan Peninsula was largely due to extensive poisoning campaigns against wolves and jackals.) Read the rest of this entry

Lammergeyer eating a bone

March 30th, 2011

Nice, short video of a lammergeyer (bearded vulture – Gypaetus barbatus) swallowing a bone.  The images were  recorded in Tremp, in the Pyrenees at  “La Terret” observatory. Sent to me by

Cazorla lammergeyer shot in Granada

April 29th, 2008

One of the lammergeyers released in the Sierra de Cazorla as part of the reintroduction programme has been found shot dead in the nearby Sierra de Castril (Granada). Its body was found thanks to the satellite tagging system fitted to all the released birds. The female was born at the lammergeyer breeding centre in Guadalentín (Jaén) where another 14 birds have been born. This is the first bearded vulture to be shot since the reintroduction programme began. The programme is to go ahead and three more birds are to be released in May. El País

Innovative breeding techniques for Lammergeier

March 30th, 2008


Using a technique for the first time with this species, the Foundation for the Reintroduction of the Lammergeier hope to release a bird bred completely isolated from human contact. They’ve built a 6x6m platform at 1,500m in Ordesa which includes a heated nest with a “puppet” adult bird to feed the chick and, next to it, a cage which the chick will be moved into after 80 days to continue the natural imprinting process as in this area of the Pyrenees there is the largest population of the species in Europe. A feeding station next to the cage will provide opportunity for the chick (born in Feb.) to observe and learn natural adult behaviour. After 120 days the young bird will fly for the first time.
They say that this tecnique will be used in the “near future” for the release of three birds in the Picos de Europa, from which I guess will be next year, the only difference being that the birds will be relocated from the Pyrenees two weeks before their first flights in the Picos.

The conservation group are already using another technique of strategically placing caged adult birds in areas in which they hope to encourage the Lammergeier to return.

For more info go to the discussion on Iberianature forum

Posted by Lisa

Lammergeyer in Cazorla

February 11th, 2008

Good news for the Lammergeyer (quebrantahuesos. Less than two years after the release of the first individuals from the captive breeding programme of Cazorla y Segura where the bird became extinct in 1980s, the young birds have begun to disperse as far as the French Pyrenees and to areas such as Montes de Toledo, La Rioja, and Castilla y León.The first three individuals, released in May 2006, have flown 25,000 kilometres according to GPS system which is tacking them. However, all of the birds have returned home to Cazorla to breed. There are now 18 lammergeyers flying free in the Sierras de Cazorla y Segura, 12 of which were born in the breeding centre and the rest brought from Austria and the Czech Republic. More releases are planned to boost the population.

Los 25.000 kilómetros del quebrantahuesos (El Pais)

More on the bearded vulture on Iberianature

Lammergeyers in the Sierra de Guara

February 21st, 2007

I’ve been invited by Josele J. Saiz to stay a couple of day at his Boletas Birdwatching Centre in the Sierra de Guara in Huesca. More on him soon. While there I hope to talk to Oscar Dí­az of the Fundación Quebrantahuesos (English) as part of research for the book. FCQ, one of the most active wildlife groups in the Pyrenees, works in the conservation of lammergeyers, but also in the conservation of the Pyrenees in general. I’ve been doing a bit of background reading on the lammergeyer or bearded vulture. What an utterly remarkable bird this is.

Photo by F. Marquez.

This is the world’s only bone-eater. They feed on marrow which they get by dropping bones repeatedly onto rocks, as their Spanish name, quebrantahuesos, aptly suggests. They’ll come back again and again to their favourite rocky areas known in English as ossuaries.
The evocative English Lammergeier or Lammergeyer (both correct) comes from the German, lammergeier, meaning “lamb-vulture“. This was apparently coined by 19th century naturalists due to the mistaken and incredibly widespread belief across Central Europe that they would take young lambs.
They are also known in English as bearded vultures. This is in reference to the ochre ruff of quills they sport around their necks. They are not born with this colour, but acquire the colour by actively seeking out iron-rich muds and rubbing their feathers in them. One theory goes that in a stand-off, the redder the feather, the tougher the lammergeyer, though I need to check this.
The female lammergeyer lays one egg, and then a few days later, lays another. The second chick plays the role of a substitute if the first egg fails to hatch. In most cases, the second chick dies, despite the efforts of its parents to feed it: the older sibling is stronger and takes its food. And then, when the right moment arrives it will kill its brother or sister. This is known by biologists as Cainism, the advantage being that if the first chick fails to hatch or dies young the second chick is at hand. Some of these second chicks are now being rescued are used as part of a captive breeding programme in Andalucia.
• The most serious problem for the bird is poisoning. Some 40% of unnatural deaths of lammergeyers in Spain are from poisoned meat put out principally, these days, to kill foxes, though in the past the bird also suffered from more direct persecution
• Unusally, reproductive units can be comprised of two or three adults. Groups of three appear to be more common that thought. In the latter case there usually are two males and one female, although exceptionally reproductive units made up of four specimens have been observed. The members of the group mount each other as part of a bizarre mating simulation, male on male and female on male.
Currently the Spanish Pyrenean population is comprised of around 125 occupied territories (2004) with an estimated pre-adult population of 156-162 specimens distributed in an area of 21,000 km2. Perhaps the best site to them is the Sierra de Guara with 12 bearded vulture territories, the densest population in Europe. ,
There really is so much more. Just about the only live prey they take are tortoises, which they also dash on the rocks, though as they have been pushed out of low-lying areas this may no longer occur, and certainly not in Spain. Legends abound across Eurasia and Africa. There are for instance strong associations with the pheonix and the bearded vulture. More on this soon. More on lammergeyers in Spain and here on lammergeyer around the world