Simien Mountains – The Lammergeier, aka Bearded Vulture, aka “The Bone Crusher”

by John Downey

The Lammergeier is one of the largest Old World vultures, with wingspans up to 2.8m, and though its features look like a bird of prey, it mostly feeds on carrion as a scavenger.

Despite this, the Lammergeier does not prefer rotting meat.  Rather, as the nickname infers, it feeds almost exclusively on bone marrow.  I watched this one for about 20 minutes as it repeatedly dropped this piece of bone from about 20m high.

No joy after several attempts.  That said, these birds have a high-ph stomach acid that can dissolve bone within 24 hours after ingestion.  Maybe this guy hadn’t figured he could just eat the thing and be off.  It was very cool to watch nonetheless.

As with the previous posts on the Simiens, I used a 200mm 2.8L lens.  It would have been nice to have a fast 400mm for these particular shots – most of them are cropped all the way to 1:1 and wouldn’t show well in print.

This post concludes a short series on the Simien Mountains.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the images and make it a point of visiting these amazing Ethiopian landscapes and the wildlife that inhabits them.

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