Griffon Vultures

January 04, 2019

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Photographer: Juan Manuel Pérez Rayego 
Summary Authors: Juan Manuel Pérez Rayego; Jim Foster

Shown above are griffon vultures as observed in Extremadura, Spain. This region of Spain is home to approximately 7 percent of these old world vultures, an important scavenger that effectively removes decaying animals, limiting the spread of disease. Mad cow disease indirectly led to the demise of these birds in the 1990s and early 2000s since it was forbidden to leave dead cattle in fields. Because the carcasses were fed upon by the vultures, there was a concern that this disease would then be more readily transmitted to human populations.

When the restrictions were lifted, this species began to recover and are now commonly seen in diverse environments. The top photo shows a flock of griffon vultures flying over an area of meadows and oaks, not far from the García Sola Reservoir. Livestock and deer and other large game animals graze here. The second photo shows vultures that have recently settled at a garbage dump near Mérida, Spain (hundreds are perched on the slope at right center), along with storks, seagulls and egrets.

Photo Details: Dslr; + 24-105 mm; f /4; 1/8000 sec. exposure; ISO160.