The griffon vulture, belonging to genus Gyps, is an Old World vulture. This species is also known as Eurasian griffon vulture or just Eurasian Griffon. It is often confused with Rüppell’s griffon vulture, which is a totally different species.
Species: G. fulvus
The scientific name for the Griffon vulture is Gyps fulvus.
The size of an adult Eurasian griffon stands between 92 to 125 centimeters in length, and their wingspan is somewhere between 2.2 to 3 meters.
The weight of the nominate subspecies male tends to be 6 to 11 kilograms, while female weigh a bit heavier than the male. The weight of G. f. Fulvescens, the Indian subspecies, is 7.2 kilograms on average. However, some individuals reach up to 15 kilos. They possess a creamy-white colored ruff, head and neck; and a yellow bill. The color of the upper wing and body plumage is light brown; while the flight feathers and tail are a bit darker. This contrast of color is more noticeable among young Griffon vultures as they possess pale upper wing feathers. They have broad wings. Their tail feathers are short.
These species inhabit a great range of habitats including grasslands, semi-desert regions, shrubbery, mountain ranges, and upland areas. They generally prefer warm climate regions, but they could deal with grating conditions like rain, cold and snow. It has been noted that Griffons have a tendency to avoid wetlands, forests as well as marine waters. They favor high cliffs for roosting. They can be seen in varying elevations ranging from sea level to up to 2500 meters from sea level.
This vulture covers a wide range of habitats across three continents. They are found in North Africa, the Middle East, Portugal, and Spain towards the west and east to India. Griffon vulture India specimens are quite common in various parts of the sub-continent.In Europe, its most widespread population is found in Spain that covers more than three-quarters of the total European population.
In recent few years, more Griffons have been observed in central Europe, especially in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, due to the food shortage in Spain.
Griffons are scavengers like other vulture species. They feed mostly from carcasses that they locate from a long distance while they are in flight. They can often be seen flying in groups. They establish nesting colonies in places that are far from urban, or suburban areas, undisturbed by humans. Adults are mostly sedentary; while the young ones have a tendency to fly over long distances. This vulture does not look for shelter for thermoregulation. Their bald head comes in use when it comes to thermoregulation – both in hot and cold temperatures. They are also able to deal with increased body temperature in high ambient weather temperature. Studies have shown that as their diet resources go up, their feeding rate also goes up. Other researches have shown that aged adult specimens display more aggressive behavior compared to the young ones. Both male and female show similar competitive behaviors.
The Griffon vulture breeds in loose colonies that generally carry fifteen to twenty pairs. However, at times, the breeding pair number can reach up to 150 depending on habitat and food resources. Their mating season starts in January. Pair-forming between male and female can last lifelong.
The breeding nest is usually made on a cliff. They also breed in the nest made by Cinereous vulture. Females lay a single egg. Both male and female take part in the incubation process that lasts for 50 to 55 days. The juveniles are fed by both parents for 90 days.
This raptor is a proficient scavenger. They primarily feed on the carrion of animals. At times, if their population is large, they go after weak or injured sheep or goat. Historically, they fed on wild prey like deer, gazelles or mountain goats, but now those species have been replaced by domesticated animals.
The lifespan of this species in the wild is not known. But, the maximum recorded lifespan of a captive specimen was 41.4 years.
They are quite vocal. They emit various types of sounds while interacting with other specimens of this species. The produce a hissing sound when feeding.
This vulture has no predators as such. The primary cause of its rapid decline is poisoned bait consumption. Removal of dead livestock from its native range has also triggered food shortage in its native region.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept this species in the ‘Least Concern’ category.
The largest Griffon vulture European population can be found in Spain, where the number stands at around 25000 pairs. The France population increased from just 75 pairs in the year 1999 to 796 within a span of 8 years, i.e. in 2007…
In the 1980s, five reintroduction programs took place in France. Several reintroduction programs have also taken place in Italy and Spain.
The Eurasian griffons have the ability to come back at a resting heart rate within ten minutes following a long flight.
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