Gypaetus barbatus – Gypaète Barbu
The bearded vulture is distinguishable in flight by its wings, which are thinner and more pointed, and by its tail, which is long and narrow, and tapers to a point at the end. The bare, unfeathered neck is only visible on the perched bird, and does not detract from its majestic beauty while soaring.
On June 2nd, 1995, two baby bearded vultures were released into freedom in the commune of Roubion, near the village of Vignols. The baby birds were carried up the mountain sides in wooden cases, each strapped to the back of a man. Their journey here, which began in Austria and the Haute-Savoie of France, was completely by car, because the lowered pressure of airplanes would irreversibly damage the baby birds' nervous system.
The vultures were installed in a grotto prepared for them in 1993. Their grotto is covered with planks to keep out predators, and a kitchen area where meat will be put for them each night. A blind has been installed 200 meters from the grotto, to permit a discreet but permanent guard to protect them.
Neophron percnopterus – Percnoptère d'Egypte
This is a relatively small black-and-white vulture with a bright yellow face, and a beak much thinner than other vultures. Soaring, it has black wing-tips, tapering down along the trailing edge. It soars with straight wings, typical of vultures, and has a wedge-shaped tail.
The Egyptian Vulture nests on rock ledges, and hunts in open country, in lowlands and mountains. Summers in the southern Europe along the Mediterranean, including the Camargue.
Gyps fulvus – Vautour fauve
The griffon vulture has very distinctive colors when flying. Most of the body and wings are very pale, grey or tan, with a thick black trailing edge on the wings and tail, and a white head. When flying, the long vulture-neck is retracted, and the bird's outline is quite eagle-like, with the distinctive white head seemingly very short. It's the only large vulture with the pale coloring and the dark wing edges.
The wings are very broad and the feathers curve upwards at the ends while soaring. The tail is short and also very broad.
Usually seen soaring at a considerable height. More common to Spain than Provence, but in May of 2003 we saw a group of 15 to 20 of them in the Alpes-Maritimes, soaring above the hills near Saint Vallier-de-Thiey, north of Grasse. The most majestic bird sighting we've ever had, we watched them for a half-hour before they drifted off to the north and finally out of sight.
The head and neck are covered with white down, and it has a creamy-white ruff at the base of the neck; not obvious in the field.
97 - 107 cm
Rocky mountainous country, breeding on cliff ledges, roosting on rocks or crags.