Bearded vulture

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The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These bearded vulture species are distributed in Himalayan region of Indian Subcontinent, Asia and Africa.

Taxonomy of Bearded vulture

  • Scientific Name: Gypaetus barbatus
  • Common Name: Bearded vulture
  • French: Gypaète barbu; German: Bartgeier; Spanish: Quebrantahuesos;
  • Other names: lammergeier or lammergeyer; Vultur barbatus Linnaeus, 1758;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Gypaetus barbatus was earlier classified under genus vultur. The two recognized subspecies are: G. b. barbatus (Linnaeus, 1758) and G. b. meridionalis Keyserling & J. H. Blasius, 1840.

Indian birds - Image of Bearded Vulture - Gypaetus barbatus
Indian birds - Image of Bearded Vulture - Gypaetus barbatus


The bearded vulture is a large bird, measuring 90 to 120 cm in length and weighing 4,500 to 7,000 grams. The wingspan is 230 to 280 cm. The female vulture is slightly larger than the male. The adult bird is mostly dark gray, rusty and whitish in color. It is grey-blue to grey-black above. The head is orange to rusty color. The bearded vultures have a small beard of blackish feathers at the base of bill. The creamy-coloured forehead contrasts against a black band across the eyes. The eye is red and the irides are creamy-yellow. The tail is long and wedge-shaped. The vulture call is a shrill whistle and also make twittering sounds.


The bearded vultures inhabit remote, mountainous areas, with precipitous terrain. They also move to suburban areas in search of food.

Feeding habits

The bearded vultures scavenge and feed on carrion, preferably bones and marrow. They also feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles. They are known to carry and drop, bones and also tortoises, over rocks to break them open.


The bearded vultures breed during November to June in the Indian subcontinent. They build a large nest with sticks and animal remains. The nest is built in caves and on ledges and rock outcrops. The clutch usually has one or two eggs. Both the parents take part in rearing the chicks.


The bearded vulture subspecies G. b. barbatus is distributed in India (Himalayas), Nepal, Bhutan, north Africa, southern Europe, Turkey, Caucasus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, China, Pakistan and Tibetan Plateau. The bearded vulture subspecies G. b. meridionalis is distributed in north and east Africa, South Africa and Lesotho.

Movement Patterns

The bearded vulture is sedentary in its range. The vultures in the high mountains may move to lower altitudes during winter.

Status and conservation

The bearded vulture global population is estimated to be 2,000 to 10,000 individual birds. There is a steady decline in the population of these vulture species and they are considered 'near threatened'. Kidney failure in vultures caused by feeding on carcasses of animals treated with diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) was the major cause of sudden decline in populations. However the veterinarian diclofenac was taken off the market in the year 2006, in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Present threats to the bearded vulture conservations and survival are degradation of the habitats, human disturbances of breeding pairs, collisions with powerlines and wind turbines and inadequate food availability.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these vulture species and has listed them as "Near Threatened".

Biological classification of Gypaetus barbatus
Species:G. barbatus
Binomial name:Gypaetus barbatus
Distribution:Himalayan Indian Subcontinent, Asia, Africa;
Feeding habits:bones, bone marrow and carrion; also feeds on small mammals, reptiles and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened

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