Breeding on crags in mountains, the magnificent Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus is the quintessential large bird of prey of Europe. With a wingspan of between 230 and 269 cm, a flock drifting out of the hills in search of food is one of birding’s most inspiring sights. In Europe the species occurs in most countries around the Mediterranean, but its global range takes in parts of North Africa, Arabia and extends eastwards to India including Iran and Kazakhstan for instance). By far the largest populations in Europe are found in Spain where perhaps about 25,000 pairs exist: in Extremadura’s Monfragüe National Park (where these photos were taken) there are about 500 pairs, and Griffons are regularly seen here with the even larger and Near-Threatened Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus.
Numbers in Monfragüe are apparently stable, but are dependent on farming practices that allow the bodies of dead livestock to be left out in the open (especially in areas where there are not enough dead wild mammals like deer, boars or chamois). Extremedura was given special permission during the foot-and-mouth outbreaks of the last decade to leave corpses on the ground rather than having to collect and incinerate them in recognition of its importance to the Griffon and other carrion-eating raptors.
Griffon Vultures (last image with Cinereous Vulture[lower bird]), Extremadura, Spain
All photographs copyright Charlie Moores