Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
This, also known as the Lammergeier, is the rarest of vultures in Europe and the wider Mediterranean habitat. The largest of all the local raptors it can measure from beak to tail tip 1.10 m, with a wingspan of over 2.50 m; its weight though is relatively light at only 5-8 kg, depending on the sex of the individual (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Brown 1989). Its welfare is a matter of concern in the EU: the animal is protected by EU Directive 79/409/EOK (app. 1). It is also listed as a species ‘at risk of extinction’ in the European and Greek Red Data Books of Threatened Vertebrates.
Crete hosts – at the present – the only viable population in Greece – with only 4 breeding pairs, and a population of no more than 25. The decline of the species has been dramatic over the last two decades, and especially since the late 1990s. The bird is distributed throughout all the Cretan mountain ranges (13 known domains), but – the 4 breeding pairs apart – all are unattached and solitary. Kokalas (Bones) is the name given to the species locally: fittingly, as the bird basically eats only... bones!
The average territory size is some 350 sq. km, within which each bird seeks its daily fare. The nests are located between 350-1500 m, always in small caves in vertical cliff-faces.