lammergeiers, or bearded vultures, are the only birds in the world whose diet subsists mostly of bones. they’re enormous–with a wingspan between 7-9 feet (to compare, condors have the largest wingspan in the world, 10 feet). on top of all of it, they look kind of like dragons.
these metal birds can swallow bones whole, because their super-acidic stomach can digest whole bones in about 24 hours. for bones that are too large to eat whole, bearded vultures have developed the special tactic dropping bones from the sky, which conveniently breaks them into edible pieces.
bone-eating is such a useful adaption. lammergeiers usually live alongside other giant predators or scavengers, such as griffon vultures or golden eages, and eat the bones that the other top-level carnivores leave behind. additionally, they have no need to cache meat as some animals do; bones don’t rot, nor are they of value to other predators.
(skip to 3:00 or so if you’re impatient for lammergeier action)
to be fair, these vultures don’t eat only bones, but bone matter does make up about three-quarters of their diet. when they eat flesh, they generally go after tortoises, hares, hyraxen, etc. supposedly they’ve even carried off children, but that seems a bit sensational at best.
lammergeiers aren’t classified as a threatened species, but since there are something like 2.000-10,000 left in the wild (and their range is enormous, from northern europe to south africa, to china!), let’s pause for a moment and appreciate how beautiful & terrifying this giant bird is! they’re like dinosaurs, or the dancing headless things in the labyrinth, or skeksis…nightmare beauty bird indeed.