Lock up your tortoise, there’s a Bearded Vulture in town, my lovelies. According to a piece in the Telegraph today a young Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) that had been seen in Belgium a few days ago made it all the way to the Devon coast and then another 100 miles up on to Dartmoor. This species is well known for its appetite for bone marrow. It’s a bone-cruncher and will chew the brittle bones of dead animals to get to the nutritious marrow within, the digestive juices in its gizzard being plenty strong enough to dissolve bone. But, for tougher cookies, it will carry them aloft and drop them from hundreds of metres up to smash them open to make accessing that marrow easier.
So, the headline? Well, these birds can carry off animals that up to their own size and again drop them from on high to kill them and make eating their bones much easier. Alternatively, they will simply smash their way into a tortoise, like an enthusiastic child at Easter cracking open a chocolate egg.
G. barbatus is now known to be quite closely related to the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus, which myself and Mrs Sciencebase saw many years ago on The Canary Island of Fuerteventura. That said, G. barbatus is the only member of the Gypaetus genus.
Turns out the one seen in May 2016 was most likely an escapee from a collection or aviary rather than a wild bird so was never added to the so-called British list.