• With the extinction of the lappet-faced vulture, the Griffon vulture has become Israel’s largest bird of prey, with a wingspan of 280 centimeters!
• Its body structure is designed for eating carcasses: its beak is large, strong, and sharp and can tear open skin and bite off chunks of flesh. Its neck is long and smooth, which allows for penetration into the carcass, through the openings it makes in the skin and without getting too dirty among the flesh and blood. Because the vulture does not prey upon living animals, it does not require sharp claws, and its claws are relatively shorter and duller than other predators. The name vulture (Nesher in Hebrew) comes from the feathers which have fallen out (Nashru in Hebrew) from the vulture’s head and neck, making it “bald.”
• The wings are long and wide and perfect for gliding over distances. Because the vulture’s food is not widely available, the vulture can eat large capacities at once.
• The vulture is a social bird. It hatches and rests upon perches above high cliffs, where other predators cannot reach. Because most of its flight is done through gliding, the vulture requires warm air to fly. In the morning hours, when the air is still cool, the vulture spends several hours caring for and combing its feathers as preparation for the next battle day. After the air warms, the vultures set out from the cliffs and spread throughout the area in search of food. Along their search, vultures may travel up to dozens of kilometers from their base! (like waking up in Jerusalem and looking for breakfast in Tel Aviv) The vultures find the carcasses mainly thanks to their developed sense of sight. While in flight, the vulture can spot a carcass in an open field from a distance of several kilometers. Once the vulture spots the carcass, it dives down toward it quickly, as other vultures recognize this action as found food and dive toward the carcass. The vultures eat according to a set order: first the adults, followed by the youngsters. Often, fights ensue over the eating order between vultures of the same age and strength. After eating, the vultures clean up the leftover food. Often, after eating large quantities of food, the vultures are unable to fly, and they must wait for digestion before they can fly again. About 1.5 hours before sunset, and the cooling of the air, they return to the resting place for the night.
Photo: Shai Ben Ami