The bearded vulture (bearded vulture / lamb) is the only vulture that digests the bones of dead animals. A special diet has adapted the gastrointestinal tract, so the bearded vulture is different from other types of vultures.
The name “bearded man” refers to the dark bristly beard that is characteristic of the bird and adorns the heads of females and males. The purpose of the beard is not clear.
Predators of open and mountain landscape
When searching for food, bearded vultures fly long distances. The birds are hardy thanks to a wingspan of 6.2 to 9.2 m. They weigh from 5 to 7 kg and are the largest nesting birds. Lambhounds prefer open, mountainous landscapes for hunting. They use the updrafts along the mountain slopes, looking for dead animals. Bearded men fly at low altitudes, and people meet “tete-a-tete” with them.
Several descendants and a long life
Bearded vultures reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years. They begin to give offspring at the age of 8 to 9 years, every 2-3 years.
A breeding couple feeds one chick. In order for a population of lambs to grow and survive, they must live long and reproduce many times. Accordingly, bearded men in zoos live from 40 to 50 years; in nature, individuals over 30 years old are not uncommon. Hazards caused by humans rapidly increase mortality and therefore have implications for lambs. Birds are common only in places where they are protected by environmental laws.
Egg for emergencies
Although bearded vultures raise one chick per year, they lay two eggs about one week apart, resulting in chicks hatching at different times and varying in size. The young are aggressive, and due to competition in the nest, a strong chick harasses the weaker one in the first days of life, does not allow him to eat, and leads to death.
The reason is that the parents only bring enough food from the hunt for one chick. The second egg is a biological reserve if the first egg:
Breeding season in the middle of winter
Bearded vultures produce a brood from the end of December to the end of February. This somewhat special time is related to the diet of chickens. They do not digest bones, they need fresh meat in the first weeks of life. Incubation lasts approximately 55 days. The chicks hatch at the end of winter when the carcasses of animals that have not survived the harsh season appear, and thus the parents provide the young with unrotten meat.
Luminous eyes, ruddy chest
Bearded men have an amazing color. Eyes are bright red when something piques their curiosity or they are excited. In juveniles, feathers are predominantly dark brown. From the age of four, the head, chest and abdominal feathers turn white. Both sexes look for water bodies that contain iron oxide in sediment. Bathing turns chest feathers bright orange-red. Whether this is a decoration, or iron oxides protect eggs from infections during the breeding season is unknown. Perhaps both explanations are correct, or there are other, unclear reasons.
Where does the lamb live
Bearded vultures are distributed over a wide area. Initially, they were native to almost all the mountains of Eurasia. And today bearded men live in the Himalayas and Central Asia. There is even a separate subspecies in the mountains of eastern and southern Africa. Globally, bird numbers are in sharp decline in many regions, and bearded vultures are no exception. Especially in the Mediterranean, bearded vultures are at great risk. Therefore, the project to recreate the population of bearded vultures in the Alps is very important for the survival of the species.