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Bearded Vulture



The bearded vulture or lammergeier, Gypaetus barbatus, is a unique bird of prey well-known to many for its striking appearance and unusual feeding strategies. Though traditionally considered an Old World vulture, modern phylogenetics places the bearded vulture in a minor lineage of Accipitidrae, the hawks, along with one other living relative (the Egyptian vulture).

Its vulture affinities are clear in its preference for carrion, but it lives almost entirely on bone marrow, which it extracts from the bones of dead animals with its powerful digestive system. The bearded vulture has extraordinarily corrosive stomach acids, which enable it to swallow bones of enormous size and break them down, as well as massive neck muscles and a heavy bill to bite through larger bones to more manageable sizes. For breaking especially large bones, this bird has been known to carry them above the high-altitude cliffs and crags in which it lives, where it drops them to splinter open on the rock below. It has been observed dispatching live prey, most notably tortoises, in the same fashion.

The bearded vulture is huge, with wingspans up to nearly 10 feet, and is unmistakable in its coloration and proportions. Unlike other birds of prey at this size range, it has relatively long, narrow wings, and has been described as a "scaled-up falcon".

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