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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Griffon Vulture Facts You'll Never Forget

Read these griffon vulture facts about this old-world Accipitridae tribe of birds of prey.

The griffon vulture is a rare vulture eagle species that grew to be Europe's second-largest bird, with a large wingspan of about 9.8 ft (3 m). It is an old-world vulture that belongs to the Accipitridae family of birds of prey. It can be seen majestically soaring through the sky, searching for food in the colder, harsher regions of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

It sports a creamy-white ruff that matches the colors of its head and collar. Its pale brown body and upper wing feathers contrast beautifully with its dark flight feathers and tail; the contrast is especially evident in young birds, whose upper wing feathers are exceptionally pale.

Soaring and thermoregulation have both been researched using griffon vultures as the subject. These large birds need to use an efficient flying technique, instead of the conventional flapping of the wings, to conserve their energy. Vultures, in particular, use more effective flight techniques like soaring. Flying griffon vultures spend around two times their rate of metabolism in flight, which is very efficient when compared to other species that increase their metabolic rate to up to sixteen times their rate of metabolism in flight. Griffon vultures are also effective pilots, returning to a resting heart rate less than ten minutes after taking off.

Griffon vultures do not need to seek shelter for thermoregulation, like other large scavengers. Instead, these vultures use their bald head and neck to regulate their body temperatures in both cold and hot environments. Changing its stance can improve its bare skin exposure from 7% to 32%, regulating its body temperature considerably. In still air, this adjustment is able to significantly reduce convective heat loss. Griffon vultures have also been observed to withstand higher body temperatures in response to hotter air temperatures. Griffon vultures save water in their body by allowing their internal body temperature to fluctuate independently of their metabolic rate. According to one study, these adaptations have given the griffon vulture's body one of the largest thermally neutral areas.

If you enjoy these facts about the griffon vultures, why not go through our articles on the mink or the shark too?

Griffon Vulture Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a griffon vulture?

The griffon vulture belongs to the vulture family and is a type of bird.

What class of animal does a griffon vulture belong to?

The griffon vulture is a big old-world vulture belonging to the Accipitridae tribe of birds of prey.

How many griffon vultures are there in the world?

The griffon vulture has a total population size of 648,000-688,000 mature individuals. The population of griffon vultures in Europe is estimated to be 32,400-34,400 couples or 64,800-68,800 adult individuals. This species is listed as under Least Concern (LC) according to the IUCN Red List, and its numbers are growing!

Where does a griffon vulture live?

Following a decline in the 20th century due to poisoned carcasses, hunting, and dwindling food stocks, the population of this species has now exploded in some areas, especially in Spain, the French Pyrenees, and Portugal. The breeding population in Europe is estimated to be 19,000-21,000 griffon vulture pairs, with about 17,500 pairs in Spain and around 600 in France.

This raptor has a widespread distribution, including the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, from India to Portugal and Spain, and is most widely found in Mediterranean countries. Spain has the largest population, accounting for more than three-quarters of all griffon vultures in Europe.

What is a griffon vulture's habitat?

Mountains, plateaus, shrubland, grassland, and semi-desert regions are all typical griffon vulture habitat examples. This species prefers warm climates but can also tolerate frost, fog, mist, and snow in order to secure especially suitable breeding or foraging environments. Forests, streams, wetlands, and coastal waters are places they prefer to avoid. They roost on high cliffs and can be found at a variety of elevations.

Who do griffon vultures live with?

Griffon vultures are diurnal species that forage together in colonies by circling a specific area while keeping an eye on other vultures to spot food. At this point, a large number of birds may descend to feed on the dead animal. Every bird fights for its spot on the dead carcass, which often leads to violent encounters. Despite this way of life, griffon vultures are very social, using a series of calls to communicate with other members of their colonies. They tend to make a long hissing sound while they feed on the carcass, and if they notice other birds closing in, they make a wooden-sounding chattering as a sign of warning.

How long does a griffon vulture live?

Griffon vultures have a life expectancy of 40 to 50 years.

How do they reproduce?

Griffon vultures can be found in pairs on high altitudes and mountains. The breeding season of this majestic bird starts in January and these vultures breed in colonies. Their nests are built on high mountains, and they make sure that these are not easily accessible for any other creatures. Nests have been found between 3,986-5,971 ft (1,215-1,820 m) in elevation in northeastern India. In Tibet, they are found as high as 13,927 ft (4,245 m).

A griffon vulture pair may nest on the same cliff face as another pair belonging to the same colony, with an average colony size going up to five to seven pairs. These nests are small compared to the Eurasian griffon vulture nests, and although they do become larger with regular use, they do not grow as big as the nests of other large accipitrids. Sometimes these vultures tend to use the nests of other birds. At least one instance of Himalayan vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) using a bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) nest has been recorded.

The standard clutch consists of one egg with red splotches. In northern India, it has been observed that the egg-laying dates range from December 25 to March 7. The egg is sandy and circular, with a height of 3.43-4.08 in (87-103.6 mm) and a width of 2.6 to 2.9 in (65 to 74 mm). The incubation time in captivity is about 54–58 days. Once the eggs hatch, the young birds stay with their parents for six to seven months.

What is their conservation status?

The griffon vulture is not considered a globally endangered species owing to its wide breeding range and population. It does, however, face several threats, including poisoned carcasses placed by farmers to reduce vulture populations. Improved agricultural sanitation and health treatment are significant challenges for this vulture, as they mean that fewer domestic animals die and the griffon has fewer chances to feed. Illegal firing, disruption, and electrocution on power lines are also a concern for them. It is important to preserve them, as they have the important role of eating carcasses and carrion, which maintains biodiversity.

Griffon Vulture Fun Facts

What do griffon vultures look like?

With a white head and neck (collar and ruff), the griffon vulture's color ranges from sandy-brown to dark brown. The wing and tail feathers' colors range from dark brown to black. Young birds have a darker color with a brown ruff. An adult Eurasian griffon vulture's wings are long and broad and almost have the appearance of fingers.

Griffon vultures are mainly a mountainous species, but they do prefer migrating to plains to forage food.

How cute are they?

The griffon vulture is not a cute bird. Evolution has made sure that these birds can survive by scavenging, but it has not helped them look good in any way. The large griffon vulture size also means that they do not look particularly cute.

How do they communicate?

Griffon vultures, like most vultures, have simple calls like grunts, hisses, and barking noises that they use to fend off predators. They also use their vision to interact with other griffon vultures.

How big is a griffon vulture?

The average griffon vulture height is 37–48 in (93–122 cm), and a typical griffon vulture wingspan is 7.5–9.2 ft (2.3–2.8 m). For reference, an ostrich is more than two times the size of a griffon vulture.

How fast can a griffon vulture fly?

The average griffon vulture flying speed is about 22 mph (35 kph). They cover up to 93 miles (150 km) around their nests, looking for food while staying in flight for about six hours a day.

How much does a griffon vulture weigh?

A griffon vulture male's weight ranges from 14-23 lb (6.2-10.5 kg), while females usually weigh 14-23 lb (6.5-10.5 kg ). The subspecies belonging to India (G. f. Fulvescens) weigh on average 16 lb (7.2 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no gender-specific names for the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) species.

What would you call a baby griffon vulture?

Baby vultures are known as a 'chick', just like all other bird species. A 'chick' is referred to as a 'fledgling' until it begins to fly.

What do they eat?

Griffon vultures are carnivores and scavengers, feeding on the soft tissues of medium to large mammal carcasses, as well as sick or poor cattle and sheep. These birds are important when it comes to preserving biodiversity. They are among the only species with carcasses and the carrion of dead animals as part of their diet.

How high can they fly?

Griffon vultures can fly at very high altitudes with a wingspan of 7.5–9.2 ft (2.3–2.8 m). Although their highest altitude has not been recorded officially, their cousin, Ruppell's vulture, is believed to be the world's highest-flying species of vultures, with a record altitude of 37,000 ft (11,300 m) above sea level!

Would they make a good pet?

No, these scavengers are not good pets. You may find these birds in captivity at a zoo, but raising these wild birds at home is not a good idea.

Did you know...

Griffon vultures have a poor sense of smell and rely solely on their eyesight to find food for themselves. A flying vulture will detect a carcass from a distance of 4 miles (6.4 km).

Within 20 minutes, 50 vultures will reduce a sheep or impala carcass to skin and bones. Scary!

Griffon vultures cannot sing. Instead, they can only make basic noises like grunts and hisses.

On the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalayan griffon vulture and Bearded vulture griffon were found nesting close to each without confrontation. This is noteworthy because neighboring interspecies nesting by Old World vultures has resulted in high hostility and interspecies griffon vulture attacks in the past (including those involving bearded vultures)

These creatures have historically been part of many ancient cultures and civilizations.

Why do griffon vultures fly so high?

Why do vultures fly that high, you ask? It's because they can take advantage of the natural wind streams found at higher altitudes, which allow them to cover large distances with minute effort. High flying griffon vultures compensate for the lower levels of oxygen by having an incredible lung respiratory system that maximizes the use of even the minutest measure of available oxygen.

How high can a griffon vulture fly?

Adult weights ranging from 9.9 to 33.1 lb (4.5-15 kg) have been recorded and flying with 33.1 lb (15 kg) of weight is not easy. Their level of flight is at 37,000 ft (11.2 km) above sea level, impressive right!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds, including the vulture, or the stork.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our griffon vulture coloring pages.

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