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Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Aegypiinae
Genus: Gyps
Species: G. fulvus
Binomial name
Gyps fulvus
(Hablizl, 1783)
Range of Gyps fulvus

The griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) is a large Old World vulture in the bird of prey family Accipitridae. It is also known as the Eurasian griffon.


  • Description 1
  • Behaviour 2
  • Status in Europe and Asia 3
  • Intraspecific Competition 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The griffon vulture is 93–122 cm (37–48 in) long with a 2.3–2.8 m (7.5–9.2 ft) wingspan. In the nominate race the males weigh 6.2 to 10.5 kg (14 to 23 lb) and females typically weigh 6.5 to 11.3 kg (14 to 25 lb), while in the Indian subspecies (G. f. fulvescens), the vultures average 7.1 kg (16 lb). Extreme adult weights have been reported from 4.5 to 15 kg (9.9 to 33.1 lb), the latter likely a weight attained in captivity.[2][3] Hatched naked, it is a typical Old World vulture in appearance, with a very white head, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff and yellow bill. The buff body and wing coverts contrast with the dark flight feathers.


Like other vultures, it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which it finds by soaring over open areas, often moving in flocks. It establishes nesting colonies in cliffs that are undisturbed by humans while coverage of open areas and availability of dead animals within dozens of kilometres of these cliffs is high.[4][5] It grunts and hisses at roosts or when feeding on carrion.

The maximum recorded lifespan of the griffon vulture is 41.4 years for an individual in captivity.[6]

It breeds on crags in mountains in southern Europe, north Africa, and Asia, laying one egg. Griffon vultures may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident. Juveniles and immature individuals may migrate far or embark on long-distance movements.[7][8]

Status in Europe and Asia

Gyps fulvus eating the carcass of a red deer.
Gyps fulvus soaring against a summer sunset.
  • In Italy, the species survived only in Sardinia, but was reintroduced in a few other areas of the peninsula. As a result, several specimens have been spotted again in August 2006 on the Gran Sasso massif (central Italy).
  • In Croatia, a colony of griffon vultures can be found near the town of Beli on the island of Cres.[9] There they breed at lower elevations, with some nests just 10 m (33 ft) above sea level. Therefore, contact with people is common. The population makes frequent incursions in the Slovenian territory, especially in the mountain Stol above Kobarid.
  • In the United Kingdom, Griffon vultures were made extinct at some point before the 1600s. Occasional vagrants appear in the UK, and in 2000 a vulture took up residence on the Channel Island of Guernsey.[10]
  • In Cyprus, there is a colony at Episkopi, in the south of the island.
  • Colonies of griffon vultures can be found in northern Israel and in the Golan Heights, where a large colony breeds in the Carmel Mountains, the Negev desert and especially at Gamla, where reintroduction projects are being carried out at breeding centers in the Carmel and Negev.
  • In Greece, there are nearly 1000 birds. On Crete they can be found in most mountainous areas, sometimes in groups of up to 20.
  • Griffon vultures have been reintroduced successfully into the Massif Central in France; about 500 are now found there. Griffon vultures are regularly spotted over the Millau bridge.
  • In Belgium and the Netherlands, around 100 birds were present in the summer of 2007. These were vagrants from the Pyrenees population (see below).[11]
  • In Germany, the species died out in the mid-18th century. Some 200 vagrant birds, probably from the Pyrenees, were sighted in 2006,[12] and several dozen of the vagrants sighted in Belgium the following year crossed into Germany in search for food.[13] There are plans to reintroduce the species in the Alps. In September 2008, pieces of a griffon vulture bone, about 35,000 years old, were excavated from Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany, which are believed to form a flute.[14][15]
  • In Serbia, there are around 60–65 pairs of griffon vultures in the western parts of the country, around Zlatar mountain and also 35 birds in the canyon of the Trešnjica river.[16] They are under legal protection from hunting.[17]
  • In Switzerland, there is a population of several dozen birds.
  • In Austria, there is a remnant population around Salzburg Zoo, and vagrants from the Balkans are often seen.
  • In Spain, there are tens of thousands of birds, from a low of a few thousand around 1980.
  • The Pyrenees population has apparently been affected by an EC ruling that due to danger of BSE transmission, no carcasses must be left on the fields for the time being. This has critically lowered food availability, and consequently, carrying capacity. Although the griffon vulture does not normally attack larger living prey, there are reports of Spanish griffon vultures killing weak, young or unhealthy living animals as they do not find enough carrion to eat.[18] In May 2013, a 52-year-old woman who was hiking in the Pyrenees and had fallen off a cliff to her death was eaten by griffon vultures before rescue workers were able to recover her body, leaving only her clothes and a few of her bones. Due to her being the first human to be documented being eaten by griffon vultures, the story brought worldwide attention to the griffon vulture problems in Southern Europe.[19]

The main source for the rapid decline in the Gyps fulvus population comes from poisonous bait set out, which is consumed by the vultures. The bait is lethal to their health but is very difficult to manage. Efforts from wildlife conservation attempt to spread awareness of these lethal and outlawed poisons by educating schools and the government about the issue. [20][21]

Intraspecific Competition

In respect to varying age ranges, the Griffon vultures evidently show no difference in feeding rates. Inevitably, as resource availability increases, feeding rates tend to follow the same pattern. Upon studying the reintroduction of this species and its impact on the intraspecific competition, old adults are more inclined to display aggressive behavior and signs of dominance in comparison to the other age ranges. In terms of comparing the male and female sexes, there are no observed differences in competitive behaviors. Lastly, the reintroduced individuals of the species and the wild-bred do not differ in dominance or feeding rate despite the differences in upbringing. [22]


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Ferguson-Lees, James; Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Illustrated by Kim Franklin, David Mead, and Philip Burton. Houghton Mifflin.  
  3. ^ Ali, Sálim (1996). The Book of Indian Birds (12th ed.). Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society.  
  4. ^ Gavashelishvili, A.; McGrady, M.J. (2006). "Breeding site selection by bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus) in the Caucasus". Animal Conservation 9 (2): 159–170.  
  5. ^ Gavashelishvili, A.; McGrady, M.J. (2006). "Geographic information system-based modelling of vulture response to carcass appearance in the Caucasus". Journal of Zoology 269 (3): 365–372.  
  6. ^ Carey, James R.; Judge, Debra S. "Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish". Monographs on Population Aging, 8. Odense University Press. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Gavashelishvili, A. (2005). "Vulture movements in the Caucasus". Vulture News 53: 28–29. 
  8. ^ McGrady, M.J.; Gavashelishvili, A. (2006). "Tracking vultures from the Caucasus into Iran" (PDF). Podoces 1 (1/2): 21–26. 
  9. ^ Ettinger, Powell (2008). "Griffon vultures on Cres Island - Croatia". Wildlife Extra. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Gänsegeier in Flandern" [Griffon vultures in Flanders].  
  12. ^ "Großer Geier-Einflug über Deutschland" [Large vulture flight over Germany] (in Deutsch).  
  13. ^ "Gänsegeier in Deutschland" [Griffon vultures in Germany].  
  14. ^ "Prehistoric flute in Germany is oldest known".  
  15. ^ "Earliest musical tradition documented in SW Germany". Science Centric. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  16. ^ "Canyon of river Trešnjica". 
  17. ^ "Zlatar tourist organization, Serbia". 
  18. ^ MacKenzie, Debora (1 June 2007). "Starving vultures switch to live prey".  
  19. ^ "Woman Eaten By Vultures After Fall From Cliff". 6 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Demerdzhiev Dimitar{a}, Hristo, H., Dobromir, D., Ivaylo, A., & Mann, K. (2014). Long-term population status, breeding parameters and limiting factors of the griffon vulture (gyps fulvus hablizl, 1783) population in the eastern rhodopes, bulgaria. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica, 66(3), 373-384. Retrieved from
  21. ^ Demerdzhiev Dimitar{a}, Hristo, H., Dobromir, D., Ivaylo, A., & Mann, K. (2014). Long-term population status, breeding parameters and limiting factors of the griffon vulture (gyps fulvus hablizl, 1783) population in the eastern rhodopes, bulgaria. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica, 66(3), 373-384. Retrieved from
  22. ^ Bose, Michela; Sarrazin, Francois (July 2007). "Competitive behaviour and feeding rate in a reintroduced population of Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus". British Ornithologists’ Union 149 (3): 490–501.  

External links

  • Vulture Territory Facts and Characteristics: Eurasian Griffon
  • Uvac Special Nature Reserve, Serbia (in Serbian)
  • Ageing and sexing (PDF; 5.6 MB) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta & Gerd-Michael Heinze
  • Flicker Handguide
  • Grifon Birds of Prey Conservation Centre in Crnika, Croatia
  • Mas de Bunyol Vulture observatory in Spain
  • Gyps fulvusBirdLife species factsheet for
  • Gyps fulvus on Avibase
  • Eurasian Griffon videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
  • Griffon vulture photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
  • Audio recordings of Griffon vulture on Xeno-canto.
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