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Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus

This species is listed as Least Concern as it has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. More information is needed to determine the rate of decline and size of the population. Should the population be found to be smaller or declining more rapidly than currently thought, the species would warrant uplisting to a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: _the_WP15.xls.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Population justification
Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) estimated the population to number 1,000-10,000 individuals, but in Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 300-700 breeding pairs, equating to 900-2,100 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). A revised global estimate is therefore 2,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 1,300-6,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is declining throughout its range with the exception of Northern Spain where the population has increased since 1986. Poisoning, both accidental and targeted, as well as habitat degradation, disturbance of breeding site and collision with power lines are considered to be the main threats (Ferguson- Lees and Christie 2001).


Behaviour The species has a patchy distribution across the Palearctic, Afrotropics and Indomalayan regions (53.5°N to 31°S), but is locally very rare and in decline (Ferguson- Lees and Christie 2001). It is resident where is occurs, but has vast home ranges, and juveniles will wander even more widely than adults (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Habitat The species occupies remote, mountainous areas, with precipitous terrain, usually above 1000m, and in particular areas where large predators such as wolves and Golden Eagles are present, and there are herds of mammals such as mountain goats, ibex, and sheep (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Diet The species will forage over vast distances (up to 700km in one day has been recorded), using a soaring flight. Its principle food is carrion, with its diet including a large proportion of bones (as much as 85%) whereupon the bird gets nutrition from the marrow inside. The rest of its diet comprises tortoises, and occasionally also live mammals and birds. It is generally unwilling to compete with vultures at carcasses, and will wait patiently to feed, scavenging older carcasses if fresh meat is scarce. Bones are either consumed whole, broken using the bill, hammered against the ground, or lifted into the air and dropped from 50-80m high onto hard rock. Tortoises and hyraxes are generally treated in the same way as bones.  It is known to scavenge in rubbish dumps, including urban areas in Ethiopia (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Breeding Site The species will construct large nests (averaging 1m diameter), composed of branches and lined with animal remains such as skin and wool, as well as dung and occasionally also rubbish. Nests are located on remote overhung cliff ledges or in caves and will be re-used over the years. Breeding occurs from December to September in Europe and northern Africa; October – May in Ethiopia; May-January in southern Africa; year-round in much of eastern Africa; and December - June in India (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Management Information In Europe, captive breeding and reintroduction programmes have been carried out in the Austrian, French, Italian and Swiss Alps with individuals subsequently spreading into other parts of France (Snow and Perrins, 1998; Frey and Walter, 1989). Feeding stations have been provided in the Pyrenees with resulting increases in numbers of the species, and the provision of similar stations across the species’ range could improve its global population density (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).

The main causes of on-going declines appear to be non-target poisoning, direct persecution, habitat degradation, disturbance of breeding birds, inadequate food availability,changes in livestock-rearing practices and collisions with power-lines and wind farms (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Barov and Derhé 2011, S. Xirouchaki in litt. 2012). Simmons and Jenkins (2007) suggested that population trends in this species in southern Africa may be correlated with climate trends. In addition, habitat degradation and breeding disturbance also threaten the species (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Barov, B and Derhé, M. A. 2011. Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus species action plan implementation review. In: Barov, B and Derhé, M. A. (eds), Review of The Implementation Of Species Action Plans for Threatened Birds in the European Union 2004-2010. Final report. BirdLife International For the European Commission.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Frey, H., Walter, W. 1989. The reintroduction of the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus into the Alps. In: Meyburg, B. -U., and Chancellor, R. D. (eds), Raptors in the Modern World, pp. 341-344. WWGBP, Berlin.

Simmons, R. E.; Jenkins, A. R. 2007. Is climate change influencing the decline of Cape and Bearded Vultures in southern Africa? Vulture News: 41-51.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

European Union Species Action Plan

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M.

Ibrahim, W., Cuzin, F., Thomsett, S., Sklyarenko, S., Naoroji, R., Inskipp, C., Baral, H., Stoynov, E., Angelov, I., Ghasabyan, M., Gil, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Gypaetus barbatus. Downloaded from on 10/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 10/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Accipitridae (Osprey, kites, hawks and eagles)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 1300-6700 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,840,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Climate change species distributions