Lammergeier, also called Bearded Vulture or Bone Crusher
Lammergeier, also called Bearded Vulture or Bone Crusher

Lammergeier (also called, Bearded Vulture or Bone Crusher,  is one of the largest and most spectacular birds in Ethiopia, this enormous bird has a wingspan of over 2m. They are often seen soaring alone along high cliffs and rock outcrops looking for food. Clocked at speeds of 130km/hr and flying at staggering heights with barely a beat of its gigantic wings, they are a magnificent sight.

Bearded vultures wait patiently until other scavengers finish picking meat off a carcass to make their move. They soar down to retrieve a whole bone and return to the sky. From there, the bird picks up speed, pointing the bone forwards to reduce air resistance, and heads for an area of open rock. As it nears the dropping zone, the bearded vulture dips sharply to increase velocity and releases the bone to fall and break on the rocks below. They are incredibly accurate at estimating where and when to drop the bone – they usually hit an area of 4m2 while soaring at a height of 30 to 40m. As the bone shatters, they descend rapidly, turning into the wind, spreading its tail and flapping its wings to brake. They swallow the bones shards whole as their gastric fluids are so strong that they can easily digest bone. The bearded vulture is the only animal that feeds almost exclusively on bone (70-90% of their diet!)

The reddish plumage on the neck and under parts of the bird comes from iron oxide that they rub onto themselves from stones.

The Simien Mountains are perhaps the best place in Ethiopia to see them as they are frequently spotted soaring along the magnificent cliff edges