A bearded vulture swallows a large bone. By Francesco Veronesi from Italy [CC BY-SA 2.0]via Wikimedia CommonsWant to know more about birds? Subscribe to our newsletterlots of bird watching tips, news and much more!
In the Since You Asked column in every issue of BirdWatching, editor-in-chief Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and their behavior. Here’s a question from our June 2018 issue.
Which bird has the strangest or most specialized diet? —Alex Nelson, Denver, Colorado
I will give this distinction to the Bearded Vulture, or Vulture (Bearded Vulture). This enormous Old World vulture, which can weigh more than 13 pounds, feeds almost exclusively on bones. It not only consumes the marrow but also whole bones. Small ones are eaten whole, while larger ones are removed from a carcass and dropped from a great height to break open. Vultures have highly acidic stomach juices and a long intestinal tract that help them digest their unique diet.
The name Lammergeier reflects the myth that “the bird killed lambs and sometimes even small children,” according to the Vulture Conservation Foundation. “Bearded vultures were fanatically hunted and, in the Alps, there was even a bounty for each animal killed.” The species was once found in mountainous areas of southern Europe, but the foundation now reports that it is only present “in the Pyrenees (around 100 breeding pairs), Corsica (8 pairs), Crete (9 to 10 breeding pairs) and in a reintroduced region. Alpine population (20 breeding pairs).
About Julie Craves
Julie is a supervisor of avian research at the Red River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan in Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Center for Environmental Interpretation. She writes about her research on the blog Net resultsand she manages the website Coffee and conservationa comprehensive resource on the origin of coffee and its impact on wild birds.
Read the other questions Julie answered in “Since You Asked.”
If you have a bird question for Julie, send it to [email protected] or visit our Contact page.
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