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The Black Vulture

Black vulture

The black vulture is one of the largest scavengers that we can see in Spain, along with the griffon vulture and bearded vulture. Learn more about it.

The black vulture is one of the largest scavengers that we can see in Spain, along with the griffon vulture and bearded vulture. Bird lovers can increasingly see this majestic bird as it flies over the Spanish landscape with its elegant glide and 8 foot (2.5 m) wingspan, although some have a wingspan of up to 10 feet (3 m).

The black vulture lives in the mountainous regions of southern Europe and Asia, from Spain to Manchuria, and on rare occasions in Japan. In the Iberian Peninsula, the black vulture is most often found in southwestern Spain and in the northern part of the island of Mallorca. However, protection measures for the specie, endangered since the 1970s, have led to sightings of black vultures in other parts of Spain, a good sign for its recovery.

In the 70s the black vulture was a seriously threatened species in Spain with only 200 breeding pairs accounted for. The implementation of various protective measures has slowly grown and multiplied this black vulture population by 10, with over 2000 breeding pairs now identified in Spain.

The black vulture is characterized by its black and dark brown plumage on its back and slightly lighter coloring on its chest. Its head generally lacks feathers, although the black vulture may feature some dark feathers on its crown. The vulture’s beak is gray and black in color and very sharp, allowing the scavenger to cut through tough meat and access the insides of the carcasses from which it feeds.

Although the population of the black vulture in Spain has increased tenfold, it still remains an endangered species. The main threat to the vulture is the illegal poison that many ranchers and farmers use to ward off rabbits, foxes and other pests. These toxins, especially cyanide derivatives, are introduced into the food chain and are eventually consumed by vultures. The threat is so intense that over 500 vultures have been found poisoned in a single year.

Another threat to the recuperating black vulture population in Spain is the construction of wind farms. Groups of wind turbines are placed on high elevations to generate electric power; in the same areas where these birds often live. The vultures can then easily be carried into treacherous collisions with the windmills’ blades.

Black Vulture Conservation

The Black Vulture Conservation Foundation (BVCF) was created in 1986 in Holland to restore dwindling populations of the black vulture in Europe.

The Black Vulture Conservation Foundation is responsible for closely monitoring the black vulture’s population recovery progress throughout Europe. In Spain, the foundation monitors the black vultures in collaboration with local governments and many NGOs. The black vulture population in Spain is especially important as most European vulture pairs choose to breed in Spain.

In 2010, the black vulture was declared “Bird of the Year” by SEO/Birdlife Spain.