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The Black Vulture

Espacio Natural

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Unmistakable due to its size and its calm, majestic way of flying. The black vulture (Aegypius monachus) is the largest bird of prey in Europe. Completely black (a deep shade in the young and more of a chocolate shade in the adults), and with light plumage on the head and neck. Its beak is curved, strong and powerful. From the peaks of the Sierra de Tramuntana (Tramuntana mountain range) it is not unusual to see it glide slowly at a great height, with its wings fully extended or a little retracted if it is flying into the wind. They fly alone or in pairs but gather in groups to hunt for food.

Unmistakable due to its size and its calm, majestic way of flying. The black vulture (Aegypius monachus) is the largest bird of prey in Europe. Completely black (a deep shade in the young and more of a chocolate shade in the adults), and with light plumage on the head and neck. Its beak is curved, strong and powerful. From the peaks of the Sierra de Tramuntana (Tramuntana mountain range) it is not unusual to see it glide slowly at a great height, with its wings fully extended or a little retracted if it is flying into the wind. They fly alone or in pairs but gather in groups to hunt for food.

Mallorca is the only island in Europe on which the black vulture lives, from where it was on the verge of disappearing in the 1970s. But the latest records confirm a slow and fragile recovery. It also lives in the wooded mountains of south-eastern Europe and in certain parts of the Iberian Peninsula.

With a wingspan of almost 3 metres and weighing between 7 and 13 kilos, it cannot flap its wings for very long, due to the energy this requires. It therefore uses the rising currents of hot air in order to soar to a very high altitude (between 10 and 120 metres), making circles, and then travelling large distances by gliding effortlessly.

It is a scavenger, and in Mallorca it feeds almost exclusively on dead goats and sheep. It needs around 700g of meat per day, but can consume up to four times this amount in order to feed its young, or to build up reserves for foggy or rainy days or low temperatures, as it cannot fly under those conditions.