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Raptor interactions: Golden Eagle predates Griffon Vulture chick

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Golden Eagle (left) and Griffon Vulture chick (right)/ illustrative

During a field visit observing Griffon Vultures in Vercors (southwesternmost Alps), our colleagues from LPO Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (LPO AURA) witnessed an unusual incident between raptors — a Golden Eagle predating on a Griffon Vulture chick. 

Eagle steals chick from a wild nest 

In the morning hours of Tuesday, 25 May 2021, the sky was full of Griffon Vultures in the Archiane cirque, with parents taking turns to leave their nests, find food and feed their chicks. At 1 pm, an adult Golden eagle made an appearance in the middle of the valley before gaining height and disappearing. Observers spotted a Golden Eagle again an hour later, perhaps the same one, flying near the cliffs ‘ Suddenly, it easily dodged an attack of a Griffon Vulture defending its territory, which is no surprise since the species has the upper hand when it comes to mobility due to size difference, as well as morphology since it mostly hunts prey compared to vultures that are built to scavenge. Following the attempted attack, the eagle landed on a nearby ledge, and five seconds later, it came out with a very white and relatively large item in its talons — it was a Griffon Vulture chick! Dragged by the weight of its prey and harassed by a Kestrel, the eagle quickly lost altitude, and despite its vigorous wing flaps, it ended up landing with its prey at the foot of the cliff in a scree slope.

Observing the eagle and chick interaction © LPO AURA

Eagle kills and eats the chick

The chick, which was not completely dead, tried to escape, but the eagle quickly killed the young vulture. Then, it began its feast. About half an hour later, after the eagle finished its meal, it flew away, leaving the site and heading west. Since the Griffon Vulture chick was all white, it was at that age where chicks are defenceless, making it odd that one of its parents was not in the nest protecting the young vulture. 

It is always sad to hear about vulture losses, but this was a relatively rare natural event rather than human-induced mortality. Interactions between vultures and other birds of prey do happen as they interact with their surroundings and other wildlife. We know of young Bearded Vultures that have been killed by Golden Eagles, as well as of Egyptian Vultures that died after fights with other raptors.

Have you ever seen such a scene or a similar one? Let us know on Twitter

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