How to spot bearded vultures?

How to spot bearded vultures?

Whether you are going to spot the bearded vulture or it happens by chance when you're in the mountains, an encounter with the vulture is always a magical moment. Most of the time it’s just a glimpse, it flies a few metres above you. ASTERS-CEN, the Haute-Savoie natural spaces conservatory, gives you its tips for spotting this species in the spirit of conservation.

How to spot bearded vultures?

1) The golden rules of spotting...

To make the most of the moment, here are a few tips so you don’t miss anything and this large bird of prey is disturbed as little as possible:

- Stay calm and do not make sudden movements (such as calling your friends, getting out your camera or binoculars, etc.).
- Stop and take the time to observe, if it goes behind a peak or ridge it can come back very quickly.
- There is no risk of disturbing the vulture if you are on the ground and it is in flight, the vulture is in charge of whether or not it approaches you.
- If the vulture is perched eating a carcass or preening its feathers then keep as still as possible, if you’re quite close then the slightest movement can make it fly away.
- If you are flying (paraglider, glider, microlight, etc.) then do not try to approach or follow it as it could easily see you as an enemy.
- Distance yourself from cliffs as its nest could be nearby.
- Never approach a vulture’s nest if you know its whereabouts. This is the most serious disturbance that can cause unsuccessful breeding and/or abandonment of the site, damaging the reintroduction and conservation programme in the Alps!

How to spot bearded vultures?

2) ...For improving conservation

To avoid the disturbance of nesting sites, areas of major sensitivity have been identified around nests in France.

These areas are defined spaces around breeding sites where activities taking place can potentially cause harm to the vultures on their breeding site. It's one way to raise awareness of these sensitive areas which has no regulatory scope.

Find the areas of major sensitivity on the ASTERS-CEN website. French regulations (ministerial ruling dated 12 December 2005) prohibit the intentional disturbance of bearded vultures, particularly during mating season and the period of dependency, from 1 November (start of mating season) until 15 August (Pyrenees, Corsica and Grands Causses) or 31 August (Alps).

How to spot bearded vultures?

3) Pass on your photos and sightings of the bearded vulture to be a part of monitoring the species

Monitoring the species allows Asters-CEN 74, the VCF (Vulture Culture Foundation) and all organisations working to protect the bearded vulture in Europe, to have information that conveys the good health of the population: "Certain indicators (rings, discoloured feathers, distinctive marks on the bird, etc.) help us to find out over time if the bird is still living, and to build population development models along with scientists to predict their dynamics and survival long-term. These details also help us to better understand the ecology of the species (behaviour, movements, etc.)".

If there is a problem at the population level, such as an increase in mortality or a reduction in breeding success, the monitoring helps to detect it and put appropriate protection or management measures in place!

According to the geographical location where you spot the bearded vulture, by clicking on the following link you can enter your sightings and send photos, even if you think they aren't good

You can also send an email to: [email protected] or find all European contacts at

How to recognise a bearded vulture? A tip for the summer months: the marmot alerts its friends by whistling once when danger is coming from the sky and several times if it's coming from the ground. If you hear the marmot whistle once then look up and it could be its sworn enemy the golden eagle, or a paraglider, but now and again it could be a bearded vulture!

And if i find a bearded vulture in difficulty or dead, what should i do?

Do not approach the bird, do not move it, don't forget that it is a protected species and it is forbidden to move it. The spot where a vulture is found dead is like a crime scene investigation to understand what has happened!

Contact the official nature or wildlife protection organisations in the respective country.
In France, you can contact Asters-CEN74 which, in coordination with the Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing of Nouvelle Aquitaine, will pass on the information to whom it may concern depending on where the bird was found (League for the Protection of Birds in the Pyrenees and Grands Causses, Corsica Regional Nature Park in Corsica, French Biodiversity Office, etc.).

- [email protected]
- [email protected] for the VCF in Europe

How to spot bearded vultures?


Member of the vulture conservation foundation

The VCF is working for the protection and re-introduction of bearded vultures

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