With a wingspan of nearly nine feet – 2.65 metres – the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus is one of our most spectacular birds of prey, and it’s great to have this magnificent raptor on the list for the new year.
Kiersten spotted the individuals shown here in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the last couple of days. With the two highest peaks in Spain – Mulhacen at 3,481m and Pico Veleta at 3,392m – the range certainly can provide the remote crags and cliffs these scavengers need for roosts and nest sites, and our increasingly frequent sightings suggest this species may now have a year-round presence in the local area.
While their sheer size and presence is often enough for a quick ID there are still some useful details to look for in their plumage and body shape, to help separate them from the larger eagles that occur in southern Spain.
Note how the rich buff-brown of their backs and wing coverts – the paler, inner patch at the front – contrasts distinctively with the black trailing edge and the black “hands” and deeply slotted “fingers” of the outer wing, clearly visible in some of the shots we have for you today.
Also of note is the very short, rounded, dark tail and the pale head – white in adults – which can appear very unobtrusive and hard to see against the sky.
You could be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking there could be few other species that would choose to stand up to a bird of this size…but the local mob of (Red-billed) Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorus had other ideas, and turned out in force to mob the intruders, doing their very best to see them off.
Mobbing behaviour is the collective effort of a group of individuals to drive off a predator. In this case, the Vultures are of course no real threat to the Choughs, but they instinctively respond to the preence of a raptor and set about harrassing them nonetheless. Great stuff!
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