The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) or lammergeier has a wingspan up to 2.8 meters! It’s without a doubt the most impressive bird you can see while hiking in the Alps. However, not that long ago, these magnificent birds totally disappeared from our mountains. Fortunately, a successful re-introduction program brought change.
The perfect place for a bearded vulture
Thirty years ago, the Bargy in the Haute-Savoie was chosen as the perfect place to release the first bearded vultures. First of all, in this part of the French Alps there are many alpine ibexes and chamois whose carcasses – the bones to be precise – serve as food for the birds. Secondly, the immense cliffs provide perfect breeding spots, and last but not least, it is a very quiet area.
The first nesting couple, and their first egg!
Every year a couple of bearded vultures were released, but it took ten years before the first couple settled in the Bargy. Balthazar and Assignat were the first love birds to make their nest on the steep limestone cliffs. Shortly thereafter, an even more memorable event followed: in 1997 the very first chick emerged from an egg. And today, in the year 2019, mum and dad still have their nest in the Bargy.
After Balthazar and Assignat’s success, the reintroduction project was moved to the Aravis. Today six breeding pairs have settled in the Haute-Savoie, making the area “full”. The project has finished, leaving us with these magnificent birds as an integral part of our beautiful mountain landscape!
Where to see bearded vultures
You might see bearded vultures on any hiking trip in the Alps, but the best place to see them is on the Col de la Colombière (1613 m) in the Bargy where you have a very good chance of seeing Balthazar and Assignat flying around.
Also keep your eyes on the sky when hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc; our guides at Alpenwild often report sightings of bearded vultures on the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m).
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