Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus)

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Gypaetus
Species: G. barbatus
Binomial name
Gypaetus barbatus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus is an Old World vulture, the only member of the genus Gypaetus (Storr, 1784). It breeds on crags in high mountains in southern Europe, Africa, India and Tibet, laying one or two eggs. The population is resident. Lammergeier have been re-introduced successfully into the Alps, but is still one of the rarest raptors in Europe.

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. It will drop bones from a height to crack them to get at the bone marrow. Its old name of Ossifrage (or Bone Crusher) relates to this habit. Live tortoises are also dropped in similar fashion to crack them open.

Unlike most vultures, Lammergeiers do not have a bald head. This huge bird has a 2.5m wingspan, and is quite unlike most other vultures in flight due to its long narrow wings and wedge shaped tail.

Bearded Vulture


Adults have a buff-yellow body and head, the latter with the black moustaches which give this species its alternative name. Tail and wings are grey. Juvenile birds are dark all over, and take 5 years to reach full maturity. Lammergeiers are silent apart from shrill whistles at the breeding crags. They have a length of 37-41 inches (95-105 cm), with a wingspan of 98-110 inches (250-280 cm), they weigh between 5000 and 7000 grams (11-15 pound). They can live up to 40 years in captivity.

Their habitat is spread over Southern Europe, Africa, the Middle-east, India and Tibet, inhabiting exclusively mountainous terrain (between 500 and 4,000 meters, 1,300-13,100 feet). They breed from mid December to mid February, laying 1 to 2 eggs, which hatch between 53 and 58 days. After which the young spend 106 to 130 days in the nest, before flying out on their own.


The name of the Lammergeier originates from German Lämmergeier, in which language it means "lamb-vulture".


According to legend, the Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when a tortoise was dropped on his bald head by a Lammergeier which mistook it for a stone.

The Lammergeier (phene) appears in the play of Aristophanes' The Birds

A common phrase used in cryptography is "squeamish ossifrage".


The Lammergeyer in Spain <-- other continents, as well -->

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