Wild Birds

Griffon Vultures

Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus)

The Griffon Vultures or Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) is a large Old World vulture in the bird of prey family Accipitridae, and the second largest bird in Europe.

Griffon Vultures may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident.

Griffon Vultures is on Flight
Griffon Vultures is on Flight


The Griffon Vulture is 93–110 cm (37–43 in) long with a 230–269 cm (91–106 in) wingspan, and it weighs between 6 and 13 kg (13.2 and 29 lb).

Hatched naked, it is a typical Old World vulture in appearance, with a white bald head, very broad wings, and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff and yellow bill. The buff body and wing coverts contrast with the dark flight feathers.

Diet / Feeding

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which it finds by soaring over open areas, often moving in flocks. It grunts and hisses at roosts or when feeding on carrion (dead animals).

Breeding / Nesting

It breeds on crags in mountains in southern Europe, North Africa, and Asia, laying one egg.

Status in Europe

  • In Italy, the species survived only in Sardinia but was re-introduced in a few other areas of the peninsula. As a result, several specimens were spotted again in August 2006 on the Gran Sasso massif (central Italy).
  • In Croatia, a colony of Griffon Vultures can be found near the town of Beli on the island of Cres. There they breed at lower elevations, with some nests just 10 m above sea level. Therefore, contact with people is common.
  • In Cyprus, there is a colony at Episkopi, in the south of the island.
  • Colonies of Griffon Vultures can be found in northern Israel, especially in the Golan heights where a large colony breeds at Gamla, and in the Carmel Mountains and the Negev desert, where reintroduction projects are being carried out at breeding centers in the Carmel and Negev.

  • In Greece, there are nearly 1000 birds. On Crete, they can be found in most mountainous areas, sometimes in groups of up to 20.
  • Griffon Vultures have been re-introduced successfully into the Massif Central in France; about 500 are now found there.
  • In Belgium and the Netherlands, around 100 birds were present in the summer of 2007. These were vagrants from the Pyrenees population (see below).
  • In Germany, the species died out in the mid-18th century. Some 200 vagrant birds, probably from the Pyrenees, were sighted in 2006, and several dozen of the vagrants sighted in Belgium the following year crossed into Germany in search of food. There are plans to reintroduce the species in the Alps. In September 2008, pieces of a griffon vulture bone, about 35,000 years old, were excavated from Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany, which is believed to form a flute.
A Griffon Vulture Resting
A Griffon Vulture Resting
  • In Serbia, there are around 60–65 pairs of Griffon Vultures in western parts of the country, around Zlatar mountain, also 35 birds in the canyon of river Trešnjica and they are under legal protection from hunting.
  • In Switzerland, there is a population of several dozen birds.
  • In Austria, there is a remnant population around Salzburg Zoo, and vagrants from the Balkans are often seen.
  • In Spain, there are tens of thousands of birds, from a low of a few 1000 around 1980.
  • The Pyrenees population has been affected by an EC ruling that due to the danger of BSE transmission, no carcasses must be left on the fields for the time being. This has critically lowered food availability, and consequently, carrying capacity. Although the Griffon Vulture does not normally attack larger living prey, there are reports of Spanish Griffon Vultures killing weak, young, or unhealthy living animals as they do not find enough carrion to eat.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also
Back to top button