The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus ("Bearded Vulture-Eagle"), is an Old World vulture, the only member of the genus Gypaetus. It breeds on crags in high mountains in southern Europe, Africa, India and Tibet, laying one or two eggs in mid-winter which hatch at the beginning of spring. The population is resident. The Lammergeier has been successfully re-introduced into the Alps, but is still one of the rarest raptors in Europe.
Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. It usually disdains the rotting meat, however, and lives on a diet that is 90% bone marrow. It will drop large bones from a height to crack them into smaller pieces. Its old name of Ossifrage (or Bone Crusher) relates to this habit. Live tortoises are also dropped in similar fashion to crack them open. Local people have even accused this species of intentionally forcing people off the edges of cliffs, although any incidents like this probably had everything to do with incautious people and nothing do to with Lammergeiers.
The adult has a buff-yellow body and head, the latter with the black moustaches which give this species its alternative name. It may rub mud over its chin, breast and leg feathers, giving these areas a rust-coloured appearance. The tail and wings are grey. The juvenile bird is dark all over, and takes five years to reach full maturity. The Lammergeier is silent, apart from shrill whistles at the breeding crags, and can live up to 40 years in captivity.
More recently, in 1945, it is said that Shimon Peres (called Shimon Persky at the time) and David Ben-Gurion found a nest of Bearded Vultures in the Negev desert. The bird is called “peres” in Hebrew, and Shimon Persky liked it so much he adopted it as his surname.