The Bearded Vulture
With its wing span of up to 2.9m, the bearded vulture is amongst the largest birds in the world that are able to fly. During flight this bird of prey often lets its wings and tail hang down, and together with its downward pointed head, this accounts for its characteristic profile. Mature bearded vultures have a body plumage that is rich in contrasts. Their upper side is greyish-black. Their head, neck and the underside of their body range between white and rust colour. The red colouring is the result of bathing in ferric oxide mud. The vulture takes its name from the ‘beard' of eye-catching, stiffly-bristled black feathers that hang around its beak.
Bearded vulture couples breed in rocky niches. One couple has an area of activity of between 100 and 750 km2, which they search for food on unbroken, gliding flights. However, the breeding couple also has a more compact territory within this area, which they defend against invaders. Bearded vultures live on carrion and they also eat those parts of carcasses that other predators leave behind. That is to say, a large proportion of their food (up to 90%) consists of bones that they can digest completely, thanks to their particularly acidic gastric juices. So as to get pieces that are small enough for their gullets, bearded vultures take any bones that are too big and drop them onto rocks from a great height.
The Golden Eagle
Golden eagles live in monogamous, permanent partnerships and they breed amongst rocks or in large trees. Each pair of eagles has several nests; over the course of a year, however, they only ever use one of them. The eagles' nesting place is usually located at a lower altitude than the hunting grounds, because it is easier for them to carry prey downwards. Golden eagles fly close to the ground when they are hunting and try to take their prey by surprise at close quarters. Their prey is usually ground-dwelling mammals ranging in size from small to medium sized. The animals are killed with the eagles' extremely powerful talons and claws. The hunting territory of a pair of golden eagles is between 50 and 150 km2, depending on the quality of the habitat.
The ibex is one of the most impressive mammals in the Hohe Tauern. It is a true member of the goat family, which means it can mate successfully with domestic goats. Its build is stocky and muscular, so that it can grow to a combined head and body length of 150 cm and to a shoulder height of 90 cm. Female ibexes weigh about 45 kg, whereas the males can reach a weight of over 100 kg. The male is equipped with impressive horns, up to 1 m long that arch across its back. In contrast the female's horns are short and hardly curve at all.
Thanks to their deeply cleft hooves, with their rubbery toe-pads the ibexes are excellent climbers and jumpers. The female ibexes and their fawns live in a separate herd from the males. Only the older males become solitary. During the mating season (December/January) the males seek out the females and try to gain control over the herd. Fights between rival males break out in the process. Ibexes may live for 20 years or more.
The Griffon Vulture
They really only spend the summer with us, meaning that they don't breed here. The breeding colonies that are still extant in Europe can be found in the Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia, the Balkans and the Crimea.
Our vultures presumably come from the Balkan area. In all likelihood they are immature birds, too young to breed, or older birds unsuccessful in finding a mate. Griffon vultures are very sociable. They take their rest at same traditional, shared roosts year after year. Currently these are located in the Rauris and Hollersbach valleys.
Commonly the does live together in herds with their fawns, under the leadership of an older female. The cohesion of the herds can vary greatly from season to season. The young male chamoix also live together in herds, whereas the older males lead an extremely solitary life. The mature males only join the herds during the mating season in November. The rivalries between the male chamoix result in fierce struggles for territory.