Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, Белоголовый сип, Սպիտակագլուխ անգղ
Distribution and biological peculiarities in Armenia: The species is distributed in Eurasia from Spain throughout the mountainous regions of Europe, Caucasus and further to the East through Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. Armenia is inhabited by nominate subspecies. In Armenia the species breeds in North-eastern, Central, Southern, and South-eastern parts. At least two colonies are located at the border areas. Griffon Vultures inhabit wide variety of landscapes with availability of high cliffs. Unlike Bearded Vulture, which avoids canyons located in the forests, Griffon Vultures inhabit those as well, thus occupying elevation range from 600 to 2,300 m a.s.l. Griffon Vulture is a year-round resident, which however makes some local movements. They make nests on the covered cliff ledges, as well as small caves and grotto, regardless to the face of the cliffs. Griffon Vultures are not territorial and breed in small colonies. In Armenia, number of pairs in one colony varies from three to twelve. Depending on elevation Griffons begin the incubation period from March to April, laying one egg in the clutch. The fledglings leave the nest in July, rarely in early August. Griffons are known for their collective behavior of food searching and they mainly feed with a medium to large size carrion, such as wild and domestic ungulates, stray dogs, large carnivores, etc., but being very careful, Griffon Vultures never take road kills.
Population dynamics: According to the last estimation, there are 12 colonies of Griffon Vultures with total number of 46 - 54 pairs, also usually there are 5-8 non breeding individuals living in the country. The population of Griffons declined significantly after collapse of Soviet Union, and such trend was related to the critical decrease of the food supply: the slaughter houses have been closed and did not provide any waste, while the population of wild ungulates shrunk due to wide-scale poaching. However in 2003-2013 the population started slight increase. At least two colonies consisting on three and six pairs started breeding in the Southern Armenia. The statistics of breeding success also showed positive dynamics and started increase from 0.72 (in 2003-2004) to 0.81. Despite on the positive trend it is still low, which indicates existing of issues, most probably related to poisoning of Griffons by heavy metals / non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or shortage of food supply. Those possible threats are a subject of further research. One of the documented threats, which definitely affects breeding population of Griffons is a direct persecution for trophy or for illegal wildlife trade.
Conservation Measures: Griffon Vultures are listed in Red Book of the Animals of Armenia as Vulnerable (VU D1), and are included in Appendix II of the CITES and in Appendix II of the Bern Convention. At current the breeding colonies of Griffon Vultures are covered by Khosrov Nature Reserve, Zangezur Biosphere Complex, and Dilijan National Park. Most of the other breeding sites are included in the Emerald Network, protected under Bern Convention. Although the current state of Griffons is better than of other Vulture species, it is important to continue its monitoring - as a sentinel of environmental changes and to study potential poisoning of Griffons by heavy metals and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Also it is critically important to increase the punishments for illegal killing and capturing the Griffons, strengthening of inspection, and improvement of the waste management at municipal dumps. As a separate activity it is necessary to expand the public outreach component aimed at changing of attitude and perception of Armenian people towards Griffons and other Vulture species.