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Scientific classification
Binomial name
Gypaetus barbatus

The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus is an Old World vulture. It breeds on crags in high mountains in southern Europe, Africa, India and Tibet, laying one or two eggs. The population is resident.

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 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.

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.


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 by a tortoise dropped on his bald head by a Lammergeier who mistook it for a stone.