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Bearded vultures (Gypaetus barbatus, also known as the lammergeier vulture) are coming back to France helped by an initiative of the Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux (LPO, the French equivalent of the RSPB).
I have been reading an article in Liberation which features an interview with Michel Terrasse of the LPO.
In the past the bearded vulture was common all around the Mediterranean but a combination of hunting and habitat destruction had reduced the French population in the 1960s to a mere ten couples. Now protected from hunting, the main threat is from disturbance: heath burning, climbers, walkers and helicopters.
The bearded vulture is peculiar in that it feeds on the bones of dead animals which have already been stripped of their flesh by other carrion eaters – in the Pyrenees, principally the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). Its technique is to fly into the air with the bone and let it drop onto a rock and break before eating the fragments.
Are bearded vultures dangerous?
There is only one known occurrence of bearded vulture killing a man and that occurred in precisely 456BC. The Greek playwright Aeschylus had been warned of the danger of something falling on his head, so he spent most of his time outdoors. Woe betide him. A bearded vulture mistook his bald pate for a rock and dropped a turtle on it. At least that’s how Pliny told it. Aeschylus wrote tragedies.
Let’s get back to the 21st century. The LPO is working with the EU Life programme on a project to reintroduce the birds and link the two small populations – in the Alps and the Pyrenees – via the Massif Central. For the moment it all seems quite modest. At present only two birds are reintroduced each year. The LPO is seeking funds to increase this figure to five.
Where can you see bearded vultures?
With considerable luck you may see them in the French Pyrenees, but you are more likely to succeed in Spain where a viewing platform has been set up near Revilla north of Ainsa in Aragon. The birds are attracted by a feeding zone set up on the other side of the canyon. When I was there a year ago I saw one – easily identifiable by its relatively long lozenge-shaped tail – but I didn’t have time to photograph it. But you won’t be disappointed in any case. The site is magnificent and also a haunt of griffon vultures.This entry was posted on Saturday, December 17th, 2016 at 9:55 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment below, or trackback from your own site.