Soaring Himalayan Griffon Vulture

August 27, 2009


Photographer: Andrew Szewczuk
Summary Authors and Editor: Andrew Szewczuk, Stu Witmer

The Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis) flies over large swaths of central Asia including the Himalaya, Pamir and Tien Shan mountain ranges. Weighing in at 20-some pounds (12.5 kg) and with a wingspan of about 10 feet (3 meters) they are the second largest Old World Vulture. Their large wingspan helps them stay aloft for hours at a time as they soar on rising convection currents of heated air called thermals. This gives it a perfect platform for observing the land below for a potential meal. Like other vultures this one helps to keep the planet in sustainable harmony by eating anything dead and rotting it finds. The Himalayan Griffon is not considered to be endangered. This particular bird is soaring effortlessly on thermals high above a flutter of Buddhist prayer flags near a sky burial site at Ganden Monastery Tibet. This monastery was established early in the 15th century. It was the first, and for many centuries, the main monastery of the Gelug (Geluk, "Yellow Hat") sect which is now the main sect in Tibet. It was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and has since been rebuilt.

Photo details: Canon EOS 20D; 18-55mm lens; 51 mm focal length; ISO 400; 1/400 at f/16. Photo taken July 11, 2009.