Eurasian griffon vulture: the species is growing, but there are threats

In total, there is an estimate of 17-18 000 individuals

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Eurasian griffon vulture: the species is growing, but there are threats

The Eurasian griffon is found in Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Italy, even in inland regions in southern Europe. It is widespread in Greece, Turkey, on the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea up to Iraq and Iran. Over 300 couples populate the Uvac National Park in Serbia.

Some specimens migrate sporadically from Slovenia to Austria, where there is a semi-wild colony of specimens at the Salzburg Zoo, which also roams in the Hohe Tauern, where it has already nested freely. In France, an attempt at artificial repopulation in the Massif Central, where around 220 pairs currently live, and in the upper Verdon valley, where close encounters with these magnificent birds of prey is frequent, has been crowned with success.

In Switzerland, especially in the Jura massif, there are up to 54 specimens. The population at the moment seems to be growing exponentially. In total, there is an estimate of 17-18 000 individuals.

The threats

These large 60-100 cm long birds have been particularly affected by the direct extermination struggle practiced by man, by the poisoned morsels scattered for the fight against all predators or individual species of them (for example foxes); this was the end of the last Sicilian griffons, documented by Paul Géroudet.

Other causes of rarefaction are the lack of carrion of large animals, once available in a much larger measure, as well as from fires. Life expectancy is around 30-40 years and it becomes se*ually mature around 5-7 years. Spawning takes place between mid-January and early February.

The brooding lasts 52 - 58 days and the permanence time in the nest about 110 - 120 days. The clutch consists of a single egg. It feeds mainly on carrion. Griffons can form separate colonies and are fairly loyal to their permanent location.

It usually moves in flocks of several individuals.

Curiosity about the species

Its appearance is typical of the vulture, with the head and neck not having a developed plumage but only a short down, to facilitate the entry of the head into the openings of the carcasses.

Around the base of the neck there is a collar of feathers which prevents the rear plumage from getting dirty with food; the wings are wide, with deeply incised primary remiges, typical of the good sailor. During the flight the neck is kept retracted, bent in an S and almost seems to disappear in the collar.

It can remain in the air for hundreds of kilometers without flapping its wings, it can fly up to 6000 meters above sea level only by taking advantage of the updrafts. The short, square tail makes it instantly recognizable in flight from other vultures with similar color contrasts, such as the bearded vulture. The definitive plumage is reached after a juvenile stage in which the bird is darker.