Food choice and diet of the bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus in southern Africa

  • C.J. Brown
  • I Plug


When offered a selection of food items, bearded vultures Gypaetus barbatus in southern Africa chose bones in preference to meat or to feeding from a fleshed carcass. Once a carcass had been stripped of soft tissue by Gyps vultures, bearded vultures disarticulated sections or individual bones (depending on the size of the dead animal) in the order: limbs, ribs, vertebrae, skull. Their overall diet was estimated as 70% bone with marrow, 25% meat and 5% skin. This diet is about 15% higher in energy than an equivalent mass of meat. Of 683 identified prey items from five sources of data, over 80% consisted of domestic livestock; about 60% of this was sheep and goats. Even birds nesting within conservation areas derived more than half of their food from domestic stock which they found by foraging over adjacent commercial and subsistence farming areas. Bearded vultures obtain all their food by scavenging, and reports of attacks on live animals and even humans are rejected.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020