Hunger’s best friend… is the vulture

Attention: This is an entry of environmental awareness. It may be long, but I hope you read it, because there is not only four pretty pictures, but an attempt to draw attention to a very important issue.



It’s called Gyps fulvus, better known as Griffon Vulture and it is one of the four species of vultures that inhabit the Iberian Peninsula (along with the vulture, the black vulture and the bearded vulture).

The griffon vulture is one of the largest raptors of Iberian Peninsula, reaching measuring nearly three meters long and reaching 10 kg in an adult. It inhabits the rocky mountainous areas, making their nests in the holes created by water erosion. They move through the air planning through breezes and updrafts that help them gain height with ease, moving to different areas according to the position of the sun and the mountainous terrain.



The life of this bird is difficult and full of curiosities: the rearing hatches between May-June and grows very slowly (one can detect the age of a specimen through the color and appearance of feathers and beak). The young vulture makes its first flight in July and at the end of his first year embarks on a strange journey back and forth: Africa awaits, as if proof of life or a kind of graduation test is involved. Along the way he will encounter many flight hours and traps that man has prepared, sometimes voluntarily or involuntarily, to reach his destination and return back home. After four or five years, it will mate for life and after the mating season (December to April) incubate his single egg.


Nuptial flight

This is not the strangest thing, but the fact that this scavenger has meant forever, the most ecological and productive way that farmers and herders had, since ancient times, to get rid of the carcasses. Similarly, the vultures have always fed from other dead animals found in the plains and hillsides. To give you an idea, a vulture is capable of achieving in their flight 6000 meters high, and has a great ability to see and can detect a dead body over 2 km away. The problem is that, as always, man is to annoy all.

And with the advent of man …  hunger came.

Hunting and excessive felling of forests made the vulture rely solely on carrion left by shepherds and farmers to survive. These carcasses clung chains in middens, where birds knew they would find food. However, over time middens were banned (optimal resource to feed the vultures while the greenest way to dispose of the body of an animal), forcing farmers and herders to incinerate their carcasses (a bureaucratic, expensive and highly pollutantprocess that also left without food for all carrion). As always and sadly, it is most importantly the enrichment of a few than common good.



But the problems of Griffon and his colleagues do not end here, as well as being starved (keep in mind that when a vulture misses food resources it stops raising), also found a large number of copies poisoned. This new factor is added the construction of wind farms, which operate through large windmills strategically placed in thermal that are used by vultures in their great trips to Africa, before they are able to raise. Many of them (also other bird species) die swallowed by these giant blades. Only in the last decade half of the Spanish population has been lost.


Vultures come for breakfast

A few days ago I met Manuel. It was him who told me all these things about vultures and who let me know his winged family. Manuel is the soul of the Fondo Amigos del Buitre (Friends of the Vulture Fund) and he is dedicated to cross every day the peoples of the region in search of carrion to feed the vultures in the mountains. They recognize him and fly into the hillside when they detect Manuel’s red jacket. He sadly tells me: they have only been 150 today… let’s see if today the bearded vulture comes.


They all want to see what’s for breackfast

Opposite from what it seems, vultures are, as Manuel says, very Republicans: food is distributed so that even in low, everyone has taken his piece of meat into his mouth. Thanks to “traffic light”, a round featherless areas located above the clavicles, inform others of whether they have eaten or not (when they have eaten, feathers plucked plug these circles).


In this photography it’s possible to see the “traffic lights” so this one hasn’t already eaten

They have little strength in the claws, but quite the opposite in its beak, witch cuts and tears the flesh easily. I was surprised as Manuel recognizes one by one and speaks fondly to the vultures. Finally he requests to be left alone for a while with his winged friends. He has spent his entire life with the vultures, but he also has shared with us a moment of his time with them and all their wisdom. Thanks Manuel.


Manuel and his winged family

Share this video broadcasted on the Fondo of the Vulture Fund website. It tells the story of Manuel and Leonardo, the vulture who wanted to be a man but men didn’t let him (audiovisual work by Ran Levy – Yamamori).


If you want to know more about Fondo Amigos del Buitre:

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