The Bearded Vulture

Man and Wolf new beer designs are getting inspired by the alpine nature and weather conditions. The icon for our trail-blazing flagship beer Blue Bird Ale is Bearded Vulture – Gypaetus barbatus.

‘I will break your bones and eat them’

The bearded Vulture in french gypaéte, is one intense bird. It feeds almost exclusively on bones and dyes its feathers blood red, giving it the reputation of one of the most metal birds in the animal kingdom.

Gypaetus barbatus was first re introduced into Vanios national park (Valdisere) 1999.
After extinction in the beginning of the 20th century, bearded vultures started to be reintroduced in the Alps in 1986.

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These giant birds can grow up to 4 feet tall. They have a wingspan between 7 and 9 feet (2,1-2.7m) and usually weigh around 10 to 15 pounds (4.5-6.8kg).

It’s diet consists of bone (70-90%). It is known as the “bone-eater”. The bird throws the larger bones from a height on to rocky slopes in order to break them. Takes them about 3 years to learn to aim perfectly.

 

If the bone does not break the first time, the method is repeated many times until the bone finally breaks. The bird then eats the bone pieces starting with the bone marrow. The smaller bones are swallowed whole, as the bird’s gastric fluids are so strong that they can digest bone easily.

Bearded vultures come in various shades, from pure white to orange-red. Soils stained with iron oxide give the birds their fiery appearance. Gypaéte apply the dirt with their claws and then preen for about an hour to ensure a bright orange glow.

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 Historically, the bearded vulture was feared and it was believed they attacked lambs and even young children. As a result, they were hunted and eventually eradicated in the Alps.

Bearded Vultures are most commonly monogamous, and breed once a year. Sometimes, especially in certain areas of Spain and France, bachelor gypaéte will join a pre-existing couple to create a polyandrous trio. Females accept secondary mates because it increases the chances of producing offspring and doubles her protection. The birds usually don’t lay more than three eggs, so they can use all the help they can get.

Last year there were at least 34 pairs, which produced a total of 29 clutches, from which 20 chicks fledged successfully: 8 in Switzerland, 6 in France, 5 in Italy and 1 in Austria. This is a new record. The VCF is currently involved in a project (LIFE GYPHELP) that aims to reduce the mortality of bearded vultures in the French Alps, and facilitate the growth of the breeding population.

The return of the bearded vultures to the Alps – still continuing – is one of Europe´s greatest wildlife comebacks – something we can all be proud of!

ASTERS (Conservatoire d´Espaces Naturels de Haute-Savoie) organises every year a simultaneous monitoring day, from safe points near all the nests. In this count all the pairs are controlled, including their breeding status, and movements of the adults.

Links:
ASTERS conservatoire d´espaces naturels Haute-Savoie
Gypaete-barbu

Man and Wolf donates money raised on out charity events to ASTERS and helps saving and reintroducing bearded vultures.