The lammergeier is also known as the bearded vulture or the bone-eating vulture. This bird has earned itself a reputation as one of the most metal birds in the animal kingdom as its diet consists mainly of bones and they dye their own feathers a bright blood red. If this is a bird that you are not aware of, then you might find it interesting to learn more about this species. Here are 10 cool facts about the bone-eating bearded vulture.
1. Their Name Has a Meaning
The word ‘lammergeier’ means lamb vulture. This is because this carnivorous bird is super strong and can carry prey as large as lambs and calves. They swoop down plucking their prey from the ground below before flying away to feast on their find. This bird has even got a reputation for carrying away young children. However, this is a myth as they are not hostile towards humans.
2. 80% of Their Diet is Bones
The bearded vulture is a scavenger. This means they wait until other animals have picked at the carcass of a dead animal and they take what is left. This is predominantly bones with very little flesh. They are able to live off a diet of bones because their stomach acid has a pH of 1, so they can digest the bones in around 24 hours.
3. Their Color is a Status Symbol
The natural coloring of a bearded vulture is usually orange. They enhance this color with soil that is stained with iron oxide. Scientists believe that they use their color as a status symbol. The deeper the orange, the more power the bird has in that area.
4. They Are Very Large Birds
The appearance of a bearded culture is somewhat startling as they are one of the largest old world vultures. They can grow to a height of four feet and can have a wingspan of between eight and nine feet. A healthy adult bearded vulture will usually weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.
5. They Are Related to the Egyptian Vulture
The lineage of vultures is called Accipitridae and the closest living relatives to a bearded vulture in this lineage is the Egyptian vulture. These are much smaller than bearded vultures as they usually have a wingspan of around five feet and weigh less than four pounds, making them the smallest of all the vultures. They have white feathers.
6. They Are Monogamous
The lammergeier is a monogamous bird. This means that they mate with only one partner for life, unlike many other species that will breed with multiple partners. The exception to this is the bearded cultures who live in some areas of France and Spain. A couple will often allow a younger male into their partnership to create a polyandrous trio. This increases the chances of the female producing offspring.
7. They Live to a Ripe Old Age
Vultures enjoy a long life and can live up to the age of 45 if they live in captivity. The life expectancy of a wild vulture is significantly less as it is around 21.4 years. This is because of the various dangers of living in the wild, such as larger animals feeding on them or being involved an accident.
8. They Are an Endangered Species
Due to overhunting, the bearded vulture is an endangered species. This is because people feared the vultures would take their children, so they hunted the birds to near extinction. In fact, by the 1990s, they were eradicated from most areas of Eastern Europe.
9. Thomas Littleton Powys Kept Them as Pets
Thomas Littleton Powys was the 4th Baron Lilford. He was a huge fan of birds of prey and wrote that bearded vultures made fantastic pets, surprising those it may seem. He also wrote about falconing and otter hunting. Powys also kept a range of other birds of prey.
10. They Are Sometimes Seen as Unlucky
Lammergeiers are sometimes seen as unlucky due to a folklore tale about the Greek playwright Aeschylus. He was warned by a prophet that he would be killed by something falling. A large bird, that was probably a lammergeier, mistook Aeschylus’ bald head for a large rock and dropped a turtle on him. It killed him instantly. It seems that the prophecy was surprisingly true.