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Bearded Vultures Return Home to Europe

A vulture returns to its historic range
© Nicholas Turland View Large

With its enormous size and black tuft of a beard, the Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, has a stark appearance. These distinctive birds erroneously acquired a reputation for killing livestock and stealing babies, which led to relentless persecution and eventual disappearance from much of Europe. But today, thanks to the efforts of conservationists, the Bearded Vulture has returned to the mountainous skies above Eurasia.

Full Transcript



Bearded Vultures Return Home to Europe

By Monica Gokey

This is BirdNote.

The Lammergeier (LAM-ur-guy-er), or Bearded Vulture, was once the king of the skies above mountainous Eurasia.


With a gargantuan wingspan and a distinctive black tuft of a beard, the Bearded Vulture was believed to kill livestock and steal babies. But the Bearded Vulture actually feeds almost exclusively on bones, not babies. It drops the bones from high in the sky to crack them open, and then swoops down to eat the marrow.

Partly due to the bird’s large size and stark appearance, it was persecuted across much of Europe and eventually it disappeared. European skies have been mostly devoid of its high-pitched call since the early 20th century…(pause) that is, until recently.

[BEARDED VULTURE - XC144936 - sounds are from the Alps]

Since the late 1980s, efforts have been under way to introduce captive-bred Bearded Vultures to the species’ historic range in France and Spain. And it’s been a success.

Today, a stable population of a-hundred-sixty wild-breeding pairs live in the Pyrenees, where a few decades ago there were none.

Although the Bearded Vulture is still the rarest vulture in Europe, its future is looking a little bit brighter. And that’s news worth whistling about.

[BEARDED VULTURE high-pitched whistle - XC144936]

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
If you ever miss a BirdNote, you can always get the latest episode. Just tell your smart speaker: "Play the podcast BirdNote." Learn more on our website,
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Bird sounds courtesy of xeno-canto. XC191640 recorded by Mike Nelson. XC144936 recorded by Fernand Deroussen.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote   March 2020   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#  lammergeier-02-2020-03-20      lammergeier-02

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