The griffon vulture (
Gyps fulvus) is a large
Old World vulture
Old World vulture in the
bird of prey family Accipitridae. It is also known as the Eurasian
griffon. It is not to be confused with a different species, Rüppell's
griffon vulture (
Gyps rueppellii). It is closely related to the
white-backed vulture (
3 Status in Europe and Asia
5 Intraspecific competition
7 External links
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. 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. 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.
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.
Status in Europe and Asia
Griffon vultures eating the carcass of a red deer in the Pyrenees
Griffon vulture soaring against a summer sunset.
Griffon vulture in Hai-Bar reserve mount Carmel
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). Populations in Italy are thought to be undergoing a
rigorous increase, thanks to reintroduction schemes in neighbouring
countries taking effect, and a ban on hunting the species.
In Croatia, a colony of griffon vultures can be found near the town of
Beli on the island of Cres. 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,[citation
needed] and in 2000 a vulture took up residence on the Channel Island
In Cyprus, there is an unsustainable colony of fewer than 30 birds
(2016) 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
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
can be found in most mountainous areas, sometimes in groups of up to
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.
Belgium and the Netherlands, around 100 birds were present in the
summer of 2007. These were vagrants from the
Pyrenees population (see
In Germany, the species died out in the mid-18th century. Some 200
vagrant birds, probably from the Pyrenees, were sighted in 2006,
and several dozen of the vagrants sighted in
Belgium the following
year crossed into Germany in search for food. 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
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. They are under legal
protection from hunting.
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.
Spain and France, in 2008, there were 25.000 birds, from a low of a
few thousand around 1980.
Spain has the biggest colony of Griffon
vultures in all Europe. It is located at Hoces del Río Duratón
Natural Park (Province of Segovia).
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. 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
Armenia there are 46-54 pairs according to last estimation of
population; the trend demonstrates slight increasing.
The main cause of the rapid decline in the griffon vulture population
is the consumption of poisoned baits set out by people. Wildlife
conservation efforts have attempted to increase awareness of the
lethal consequences of using illegally poisoned baits through
education about the issue.
Griffon vultures have been used as model organisms for the study of
soaring and thermoregulation. The energy costs of level flight tend to
be high, prompting alternatives to flapping in larger birds. Vultures
in particular utilize more efficient flying methods such as soaring.
Compared to other birds, which elevate their metabolic rate to upwards
of 16 times their basal metabolic rate in flight, soaring griffon
vultures expend about 1.43 times their basal metabolic rate in flight.
Griffon vultures are also efficient flyers in their ability to return
to a resting heart rate after flight within ten minutes.
As large scavengers, griffon vultures have not been observed to seek
shelter for thermoregulation. Vultures use their bald heads as a means
to thermoregulate in both extreme cold and hot temperatures. Changes
in posture can increase bare skin exposure from 7% to 32%. This change
allows for the more than doubling of convective heat loss in still
air. Griffon vultures have also been found to tolerate increased
body temperatures as a response to high ambient temperatures. By
allowing their internal body temperature to change independently of
their metabolic rate, griffon vultures minimize their loss of water
and energy in thermoregulating. One study in particular (Bahat
1995) found that these adaptations have allowed the
Griffon vulture to
have one of the widest thermal neutral zones of any bird.
A mounted specimen alongside numerous other birds of prey, Natural
History Museum, London
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
BirdLife International (2017). "
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. IUCN. 2017 (amended version of 2016 assessment):
doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22695219A118593677.en. Retrieved 11
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^ "Gänsegeier in Flandern" [Griffon vultures in Flanders]. n-tv (in
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Germany] (in German). Handelsblatt. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 20 June
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Vulture in Armenia".
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^ Ward, Jennifer; McCafferty, Dominic J.; Houston, David C.; Ruxton,
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^ Prinzinger, Roland; Nagel, B.; Bahat, O.; Bögel, R.; Karl, E.;
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Gyps fulvus) [PhD
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Wikispecies has information related to
Vulture Territory Facts and Characteristics: Eurasian Griffon
Special Nature Reserve,
Serbia (in Serbian)
Ageing and sexing (PDF; 5.6 MB) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta &
Grifon Birds of Prey Conservation Centre in Crnika, Croatia
Mas de Bunyol
Vulture observatory in Spain
Yatsey the Griffon vulture
BirdLife species factsheet for
Gyps fulvus". Avibase.
"Eurasian Griffon media". Internet
Griffon vulture photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
Audio recordings of
Griffon vulture on Xeno-canto.
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Fauna Europaea: 96702