Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interesting Animals: Lammergeier

On my brother's suggestion, here is a fascinating species that is also called the bearded vulture.

An adult lammergeier or bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

The lammergeier is unusual among the vultures for having a diet that consists primarily of bone. They usually arrive at a carcass when there is little left, and then they go for the rich marrow that can still be had, ingesting large amounts of bone in the process. The majority of their diet comes from moderately sized ungulates, a term referring to hoofed mammals. Their stomachs are exceptionally acidic to allow them to digest all of that bone. Interestingly enough, they in fact don't regurgitate food for their young as in most vulture species, but instead take back food outside of their stomach.

A juvenile
They are quite large birds with wingspans of around nine feet, and unlike nearly all vultures their heads are feathered. This may be due to their diet being so different from most vultures. As with so many birds, young individuals are rather drab while adults are strikingly colored. Though their bellies are a cream sort of color, they like to bath in iron-laden water, causing their bellies to become stained a rust color. The amount of this staining varies between individual birds.

Their conservation status is currently of Least Concern.

Lammergeiers were featured on the Birds episode of BBC's beautiful documentary series Life, which aired on Animal Planet. Below is a clip from another documentary, also by the BBC.

Sources are ARKive, Animal Planet, Punctuated Equilibrium from the Guradian, and Animal Diversity Web. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under creative commons licenses: one, two

No comments:

Post a Comment