The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

 

 

The Griffon Vulture belongs to the Old World Vultures of the genus Gyps and is, by size and wingspan, a truly huge and bulky vulture. One only realises the real size of the Griffon Vulture when standing directly in front of one of them. This vulture is native to the three continents Africa, Asia and Europe.

 

In Europe the Griffon Vulture was close to extinction in the 1970s, but a comprehensive and thorougly managed conservation programme by the Vulture Conservation Foundation not only helped this species to recover but to become the most common vulture in Spain. 

 

 

 

griffon vulture
Griffon Vulture

 

Description - Characteristics: Griffon Vulture

 

Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats

 

Taxonomy:

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Old World Vultures (Gyps)

Species: Griffon Vulture

 

Scientific Name: Gyps fulvus

 

Names und Synonyms of the Griffon Vulture

 

Name in German: Gänsegeier

Name in French: Buitre Leonado

Name in Spanish: Buitre Leonado

Name in Portuguese: Grifo-comum

Name in Italian: Grifone

Name in Dutch: Vale Gier

Name in Croatian: Bjeloglavi sup

Name in Serbian: Beloglavi sup

Name in Czech: Sup bělohlavý

Name in Slovak: sup bielohlavý

Name in Hungarian: Fakó keselyű

Name in Greek: Γύπας, Ορνιο, Όρνιο

Name in Finnish: Hanhikorppikotka

Name in Danish: Gåsegrip

Name in Swedish: Gåsgam

Name in Polish: Sęp płowy

Name in Russian: Belogolowy Ssip

Name in Arabic: النسر, النسر الأسمر, النسر النسر, نسر اسمر اوراسي

Name in Kazakh: Ақбас құмай, Қара құмай

Name in Hebrew: נשר, נשר מקראי

Name in Persian: دال معمولی, دال (کرکس) معمولی, دال معمولی

Name in Bengali: ইউরেশীয় গৃধিনী

Artname in Nepali: खैरो गिद्ध

Artname in Turkey: Akbaba, Kızıl akbaba, kyzyl akbaba

 

Description of the Griffon Vulture

 

griffon vulture neck and head portrait
Neck and Head of the Griffon Vulture

 

Measurements

 

Größe: 95-105 cm

Gewicht: 6-11 kg

Spannweite: 240-280 cm

Flügellänge:

♂: 68.5-75.,0 cm

♀: 72.5-77.5 cm

 

Voice: In flight usually silent, except near own nest. However, when assembling around carrion or cadavers as a larger group, Griffon Vultures are much noisier. Usually they utter drown-out hisses and shrill sounds.

 

Sexually mature: The Griffon Vulture becomes sexually mature after 4-5 years.

Mating Time: Monogamous breeding pairs, mating starts in December.

 

Clutches per breading season: 1 clutch

 

Breeding

 

Breeding: depends on the region: Southern Europe: between February and September, North Africa and Indian region: from January onwards, Middle East: as of December.

 

Nest: The nest is a loosely-built platform, made of an assortment of sticks and twigs. Size from rather small to rather large, especially after years of consecutive use, the platforms become very large, measuring 60-100 cm across and 20-30 deep. The nest is mostly decorated and lined with grass and leaves. Nest is usually placed on a ledge and under an overhang, also in shallow sissure or caves and also on steep cliffs. Griffon Vultures are known to take over the nests of the Golden Eagle, Lammergeier and Monk Vulture.

 

 

griffon vulture
Griffon Vulture with open wings
egg griffon vulture
Ei des Gänsegeiers - Source: by Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Clutch: 1 Egg (rarely 2)

Eggs: Egg is broadly oval to plump, even elliptical, shell is mostly white, covered with rusty brown speckles and stains.

Egg – Measures and Weights:

Length: 81.5-101.0 mm

Width: 64.5-75.0 mm

Ø: 92.0x70.1 mm

Weight of an freshly laid egg: 252 g

Eggshell: 21.0-30.0 g; Ø 24.3 g (n=100)

 

Recurrent Clutch: possible, though the loss of clutch mostly leads to end of breeding for the current season.

 

Laying Interval: only on the occasion of two eggs, there are no reports available.

Incubation: 45-58 Tage, the task of incubation is shared between ♂ and ♀

Fledging: In case of two eggs, only the older one will survive. Chicken is thoroughly nursed during the first days. Both parents feed the chicken. Fledging after 113-159 days.

 

Dependency: After leaving the nest the young vulture can fly but continues to be dependent on his parents for another 3-4 months.

 

griffon vulture
Griffon Vulture

 

Miscellaneous

 

Food: The Griffon Vulture feeds exclusively on cadaver and carrion. Matter-of-factly, the Griffon Vulture processes cadaver and leaves the rest to the so-called garbage collectors, which are the Egyptian Vulture and the Bearded Vulture. These two are allowed to the carcass when the large Gyps vultures and the Monk Vulture have finished feeding. The Griffon Vulture needs the cadaver of medium to large mammals of which it processes guts, muscle and small bones. It must be stated that the usual accusations brought forward by locals that the Griffon Vulture feeds on live stock not only could never be proved but is, from a scientific point of view, utter nonsense.

 

Longevity: In captivity 50 years are possible (Zoo Salzburg).

 

Mortality – Survival Rate: ???.

 

Threats: The biggest threat is human persecution, laying out poisoned baits which are mainly intended to work against predatory mammals such as the wolve. Because of EU regulation prohibiting farmers to leave dead cattle, sheep and goats out in the fields to rot away, feeding options for Griffon Vultures are rather slim. Since the conservation programme started in France and Spain, the Griffons have been supplied with cadavers on special feeding grounds to provide sufficient food. Also the large vultures happen to collide with Power Lines. Too much tourism in certain areas leads to disruptions in the colonies of the Griffon Vulture.

 

 

griffon vulture
Griffon Vulture

 

References

 

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Baumgart, Wolfgang, Europas Geier, Flugriesen im Aufwind, AULA-Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2001

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König/Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck'sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York, 2001

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 4, Falconiformes, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 2. durchgesehene Auflage 1989

Mebs, Theodor et. al, Die Greifvögel Europas, Franck-Kosmos Verlags GmbH, 2. Auflage 2014

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011

 

 

External Links

 

Vultures Conservation Foundation - European Vulture Protection and Conservation

 

Image Credits

 

Egg of the Griffon Vulture - Source: by Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons