Amongst the most skilled gliders, the lammergeier is magnificent in flight, hardly ever seeming to beat its wing as it soars high above the mountain passes (6). Although, like other vultures, the lammergeier is a consummate scavenger, it is somewhat unique in that it specialises at feeding on bones. While small bones are eaten whole, large bones are carried into the air, and dropped from height onto rocks below. This intriguing technique, which results in the bones shattering on the rocks, provides the bird with access to the nutritious marrow inside (2) (3) (6). In addition to bones and other carrion, this species does take some live prey, such as tortoises, hyraxes and hares, which receive a similar treatment to the large bones (3).
The lammergeier breeds in pairs, with each pair commanding a large territory within which a nest is built on an accessible crag, a rocky ledge, or in a smallish cave. During the breeding season, which varies in timing geographically, courting pairs perform spectacular displays, swooping and soaring together, and occasionally interlocking their talons and spiralling downwards almost to the ground (3) (6). The nest is made from a massive pile of branches lined with wool, dung, dried skin and sometimes even rubbish. One to two eggs are normally laid in each clutch and incubated for around 53 to 60 days before hatching. The chicks fledge after 100 to 130 days but remain dependant on the parent birds for up to a year (3). Young birds are known to wander widely, but adults are normally resident within huge home ranges (3) (7).