If you’re lucky when hiking in the Pyrenees you’ll see a huge bird flying by overhead with beautiful rusty coloured feathers. If you’re even luckier, you’ll see it carry a large bone high into the sky and drop it to smash it into pieces before landing and swallowing them. What is this bid and why is it eating bones?
Bearded vulture or Lammergeier in the Pyrenees
With a wing span of nearly three metres, the enormous bearded vulture or lammergeier is one of the emblematic species of the Pyrenees. They live in the high mountains of Europe, Asia and Africa but the Pyrenees has the highest concentration in Europe of these magnificent birds.
The bearded vulture is the only bird in the world to live almost entirely on a diet of bones. It makes it’s spanish name of ‘Quebrantahusos’ – the bonebreaker – very appropriate! The vultures swallow bones of up to 20cm. Powerful acids in their stomachs then dissolve the bones and they digest the marrow.
For large bones the bearded vulture circles high in the air above stony sites called ‘rompederos’ – breaking places. They drop the bones breaking them on the stones below and then swallow the broken pieces. There are various feeding sites n the central Pyrenees where the vultures are left bones such as pigs spines by park rangers as part of the conservation program.
Read more about the bearded vulture…
Our Summer 2019 is now ready so order your copy today and start planning your next adventure in the Pyrenees.
Hike Pyrenees Summer 2019 brochure
Next summer we’ve a new itinerary – the Canyons of Ainsa – that explores the eastern side of the Ordesa National Park with hikies in the Pineta Valley and Garganta de Escuain. Perfect if you’ve been on our Discover Ordesa holiday as it explores the parts of the park that we can’t get to from Torla. The base is the beautiful village of Ainsa where we stay right on the 12th century plaza.
Hiking in the Pineta Valley on our Canyons of Ainsa holiday
on the 2-9 June we are running a Pyrenean Wildflower week in the Valle de Tena. Olatz our specialist flower guide will be leading the hikes and we’ll pick areas that are particularly good for wildflowers to hike in. Hopefully the Lady Slippers Orchid in the valley will be in flower during those dates too which is always a treat.
Lady’s slipper orchid
Of course we’ve still got all of our old favourites such as Discover Ordesa and Valle de Tena Explorer guided holidays and the Village to Village self guided itinerary.
Order a brochure today!
If you have any questions about our holidays drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope to see you in the Pyrenees next summer,
Phil and the Hike Pyrenees team
This superb Pyrenees nature and wildlife guide is now available to order from the Hike Pyrenees website – click here for details.
A superb new book on Pyrenees wildlife in English has been published and is a must for any nature lover visiting the Pyrenees. This is very welcome as Pyrenees specific books on flora or fauna in English were nearly impossible to come by before.
What’s even better is that this a fantastic guide with 910 species illustrated. What I really like is that the guide covers a bit of everything with sections on flora, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, mammals, fish, trees, mushrooms and butterflies. There are even a couple of pages on the main livestock species found here so you can now identify the cows, sheep and horses that you see while out hiking too! It really is a great all round guide.
Rarely seen but never far away whilst out hiking are the wild boar or as the locals would call them -’Jabali’.
Much to my delight at the beginning of September this year I had a guiding ‘first’ whilst hiking with Tom, George, Clare and Cynthia high above the Ordesa canyon. Spotted initially by Tom was a single large male wild boar running across the hill side in front of us! We all quickly tried to take some photo’s of him and here’s the best picture we took.
Wild boar caught on camera above Ordesa
Abundant through the Pyrenees, the wild boar live in the wooded areas of the mountains and particularly the box and oak woodlands.
We often see quite large sections of meadows we hike through dug up and turned over where they have been rooting around looking for tubers and bulbs to eat but never the boar itself.
Wild boar are quite shy and are fairly nocturnal in their habits but occasionally we do see boar on the side of the road when driving late in the evening. One year we even saw some stripey piglets late at night. They are stripey for about the first 10 months of their life.
Boar are quite large with the adults growing up to about 1.5 meters in length and both males and females have a set of 4 sharp tusks. Despite being the favorite prey of Spanish hunters using sophisticated rifles and night vision scope for AR15, wild boar numbers have soared since the 1950ies.
It is believed this is due to the fact that many villages and therefore terraced areas have been abandoned since the 50ies. The wolf also became extinct in the region during this time and was the boars only natural predator.
The official hunting season for the boar is September and it is worth keeping an eye out for the ‘Jabali’ on the menus then as it is delicious!