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Gypaetus barbatus

warning Regionally Extinct

The Bearded Vulture is considered Regionally Extinct as a breeder (RE). The extinction process occurred during the 1980s and since then no nesting attempts have been recorded in Israel, (a few immature birds occasionally appear here in winter months). In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Regionally Extinct (RE).
RE Current Regional Assessment | RE Previous Regional Assessment | NT World Assessment

Habitats Desert Cliffs, Mediterranean Cliffs
Presence In Israel Resident
Nesting In Israel Past Breeder
Migration Types Resident
Zoography Zones Alpine, Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian, Sudano-Zambezian
Landscape Formations Mountainous, Cliffs
Vegetation Densities Low
Nest Locations Cliffs
Diet Types Carrion
Foraging Grounds Ground
Body Sizes Large (over 1000g)
Threat Factors Pesticide Poisoning, Lead Poisoning, Human Activity, Direct Persecution

The Bearded Vulture is a large impressive carrion feeder with long pointed wings and a long wedge-shaped tail. Its English name refers to the short tuft of “beardlike” feathers that protrudes downwards from the base of its beak. The Bearded Vulture is an aerobat and maneuvers remarkably easily in flight relative to its size. This allows it to soar and glide along cliffs and mountainsides, and it is among the few raptors that nest even on the highest peaks, e.g. in the Himalayas. The Bearded Vulture also has unusual eating habits – it specializes in breaking bones by dropping them from heights onto rock surfaces below. It has a large gape that allows it to swallow large bones whole. Unlike most vultures, it also hunts live prey, and even large mammals, which it kills by dropping them from cliffs into precipices.

The Bearded Vulture nested in the Galilee in the nineteenth century (Tristram 1867). Until the 1950s, 5-10 pairs nested in Eastern Samaria, the Judean Desert, the Negev and the Eilat Mountains (Sela 1975, Frumkin & Man 1984, Paz 1986, Shirihai 1996). The Negev and Judean Desert populations declined in the 1970s and 1980s. The last verified breeding was recorded in the Judean Desert in 1981 (Bahat 1986). Currently the species is an extremely rare vagrant in Israel. A few vagrants (juveniles and immatures) occur in the Golan, Judean Desert and the Negev, and they probably originate in populations breeding in Turkey and Eastern Europe.

As part of “Spreading Wings over Israeli Raptors”, a joint project of the Israel Electric Corporation, the INPA and the SPNI, there were attempts to establish a Bearded Vulture breeding nucleus that was to be part of the European breeding nucleus. In the mid-1990s, two pairs were brought to Israel, but the attempts at breeding them failed and the surviving birds were returned to Europe.

There is a low probability of the Bearded Vulture returning to breed in Israel. The species has received a low priority for active management and reintroduction (Hatsofe & Mayrose 2015, Master Plan for Raptor Conservation in Israel) for the following reasons:
Most of the reasons for extinction are still present and very relevant.
The difficulty in breeding the species in captivity and its low natural reproductive rate.

The Bearded Vulture reproductive capacity is low and it reaches sexual maturity only at the age of 5-6 years. Its breeding cycle lasts for close to a year, and only one chick, at the most, fledges. These facts, along with its extreme sensitivity to human disturbance and habitat modification have led to its extinction in many countries, including Israel and the entire Middle East.

  • הצופה, א. ומירוז, א. 2015. תכנית אב לשימור העופות הדורסים בישראל. מסמך פנימי של רשות הטבע והגנים.
  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel in the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and nesting density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values as calculated from observation records and expert opinions.

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Breeding density values are based mainly on the book Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Occupancy difference 1990-2020

A map that expresses differences in the breeding distribution between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative value - species previously present but is currently absent, positive value - species has not been recorded previously and is currently present, zero - no change in occupancy.

Relative abundance difference 1990-2020

A map that reflects the changes in the relative abundance of the species between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative values - decline in abundance, positive values - increase in abundance, zero - no change in abundance.

Red number

IUCN category

() districts
% of protected sites

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