Griffon Vulture Buitre Leonado (Gyps vulvus)
A huge bird with a wingspan of 2.5 metres this species is one of 4 regular breeding species of vulture in Europe - all of which are found in Spain. This species underwent a marked population decline in Europe for most of the 20th century due to persecution via poison baits and shooting. The Spanish population dropped to c.4,000 pairs in the 70s but has now recovered and is now at c.18,000 pairs. However recent EU legislation relating to disposal of animal carcasses may be having some effect. Like most large birds it relies on thermals rather than powered flight when it can and it spectaculalry soars to heights searching for food. Up close, or when a flock start stripping a carcass, it's not so pretty as can be seen in photo. The photo was taken at Salto de Gitano (Leap of the Gypsy) in Monfrague, Caceres, Extremadura in west-central Spain.