One of the spectacular birds I saw on my visit to Ethiopia last December was the Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus. Although I was very pleased to see this bird, it couldn’t be counted as a “lifer“. I had previously seen the species in the Himalayas in Nepal.
Being members of the vulture family of birds, their diet features carrion. A high proportion of their diet is bone marrow and they are very adept at carrying a bone on high and dropping it onto rocks to break it. They are also able to easily digest whole bones they have swallowed.
This one soared effortlessly on the thermals not far above our heads when we were having a picnic lunch at Portuguese Bridge, about 100km north of Addis Ababa.
At first glance I identified it as a Lammergeier and wrote that down in my notebook. Several months later while preparing this article I started to have a few doubts. Could it be something else? Then I discovered that the tail shape is somewhat diagnostic; there’s nothing quite like it in the raptor family.