Griffon vulture in flight. By Veselin Gramatikov |
Griffon vulture in flight. By Veselin Gramatikov |

About griffon vultures.

The are two subspecies of griffon vulture: Gyps fulvus fulvus (northwest of Africa, Iberian peninsula to the Middle East) and Gyps fulvus fulvescens (Afghanistan, Pakistan and north of India to Assam).

The largest flying bird is one of the griffon vulture subspecies: the Rüppell’s griffon vulture.

These animals can eat up to 20% of their body weight in only one intake.

These animals have an extremely strong stomach. Their digestive system contains special acids that destroy anthrax bacteria, botulism and cholera.

They normally eat dead animals, never healthy ones, but they occasionally attack dying or sick animals

They lack feathers on their heads and neck to avoid collecting germs. Despite getting covered with blood and body fluids when eating, the sun bakes them and they don’t remain hidden among the feathers. It is also believed that this characteristic also allows thermoregulation. Their necks droop to cool down when they are in full sunlight.

Rüppell’s griffon vulture is the bird that flies the highest; there are records of a specimen reaching a height of 10.9 km above ground level. The fun fact is that such data was obtained when this specimen collided with an aircraft.

The role of vultures is vital for the environment. They are great at recycling dead animals, being the animal kingdom’s biggest consumers of meat. They dispose of dead animals and keep their habitat clean, even when they carry serious diseases. Griffon vultures also prevent environmental pollution caused by prolonged decomposition.

They have extraordinary sharp eyesight, being able to locate food from an incredibly long distance. When they find a victim or dying animal, they fly in circles around it until it is ready to be eaten.

They can fly considerable distances (even countries) looking for food. A study showed that one of these animals had traveled from its nest in the north of Tanzania across Kenia, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Vultures urinate on their feet, as the evaporation cools off their legs, and their components act as a sterilizing agent after coming into contact with the rotting flesh of a victim.

In order to be able to fly so high, these animals have develop an altered protein that allows them to stand low pressure and the absence of oxygen at those heights.

Griffon vulture in a detailed portrait, standing on a rock overseeing his territory. Extremadura. By Carmine Arienzo |
Griffon vulture in a detailed portrait, standing on a rock overseeing his territory. Extremadura. By Carmine Arienzo |
Griffon vultureLeast Concern
Gyps fulvus2.3 – 2.8 m (7.5 – 9.2 ft)
Accipitridae6.2 – 11.3 kg (14 – 25 lb)
Accipitriformes25 years
AvesAn incubation period of 52 days
Estimated at 500,000-1,000,000 individualsThey feed on carrion
Mountainous areas with valleys.Spain, Portugal, isolated areas of France and Italy, a significant area of the Balkans and Crimea. Northern Africa and western Asia, from Turkey, Arabia and the Caucasus to the Himalayan foothills and the northwest of India.

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Zoo portraits is a creative and educational project based on the animal kingdom and is divided into three main areas: Image, education and awareness.


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