Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

Identity card
Wingspan: 262-282 cm
Plumage (adults): Dark wings and back, light-coloured belly and head
Flight silhouette: Slender, its long wings and tail make its silhouette look more like a falcon’s than a vulture’s
Environment: Mountain areas, rocky cliffs
Nest: Holes in rocky cliffs
Diet: Mostly bones
Eggs: 2
Presence: Adults are sedentary, juveniles move over long distances

Distribution and status
The bearded vulture’s distribution is extremely wide, encompassing Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, China and Russia. In Europe, the species occurs in southern regions and consists of less than 200 pairs, mostly nesting in Spain (about 100 pairs). Large populations live in Turkey (400-700 pairs) and Russia (50-100 pairs).
Birdlife International has classified the bearded vulture as vulnerable, as it has fairly declined at European level, especially in Turkey.
Bearded vultures historically lived on the Alps, in Sicily, Sardinia, and in some Apennine areas, but then they disappeared first from Sicily, then from Sardinia and, at the beginning of the 20th century, from the western Alps, their last haven.
In the 1970s, a project was launched to reintroduce this species: numerous European authorities and zoos took part in the initiative, which resulted in the release of 144 captive-born bearded vultures between 1986 and 2006. This led, in 2014, to the settlement of 24 breeding couples and the first flight of 19 juveniles.
A project to reintroduce the species in Sardinia was crippled by the use of poison, which is a common practice on the island: three juveniles, that had been released in May 2008 in the framework of a Sardinia-Corsica Interreg project, carried out by the Province of Nuoro and supported by Region Sardinia, were found dead three months later, poisoned by baits containing rodenticide and other toxic substances.

Poison and other threats
Poison is one of the most serious threats to the conservation of this species. Others are territory anthropization, lead poisoning, electrocution, crashes against power lines or wind farms, poaching, reduced food availability, also due to closure of garbage dumps and, in Spain, of muladares or vertederos, i.e. places where breeders used to dump dead animals.

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