Europe’s biggest bird, the bearded vulture, is spotted over Zeeland

A lammergeier in flight. Photo:
A lammergeier in flight. Photo:

Europe’s biggest bird, the bearded vulture, has been spotted over the province of Zeeland, broadcaster Omroep Zeeland reports.

The bird, which has a wingspan of almost three metres, was seen near Oostkapelle and the dunes at Dishoek at the weekend.

The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), or lammergeier, is rarely seen in the Netherlands. Its European habitat is in the Alps and the Pyrenees where it was successfully reintroduced some forty years ago.

The quebrantahuesos (bone breaker), as they are called in Spain for the way they drop bones from a great height to break them up in bite-size pieces, very nearly became extinct, falling victim to poachers who robbed their nests, hunters and sheep herders putting down poison.

According to birding enthusiasts who have been following the vulture’s progress, this is a young vulture of about two years old. It is not ringed which means it is a wild bird and has not flown here from a current reintroduction effort in the Austrian Alps.

The bird uses the thermal currents to fly and it is thought the thunderstorm forced it to seek refuge on the ground. ‘When the air warms up a bit that will be a sign for the bird to spread its wings and fly away,’ bird photographer Marcel Klootwijk told Omroep Zeeland.

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