The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), also known as the Lämmergeier or ossifrage, is a bird of prey and the only member of the genus Gypaetus. Traditionally considered an Old World vulture, it actually forms a minor lineage of Accipitridae together with the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), its closest living relative. It is not much more closely related to the Old World vultures proper than to, for example, hawks, and differs from the former by its feathered neck. Although dissimilar, the Egyptian and bearded vulture each have a lozenge-shaped tail—unusual among birds of prey.
The bearded vulture is the only known animal whose diet consists almost exclusively (70 to 90 percent) of bone. It lives and breeds on crags in high mountains in southern Europe, the Caucasus, Africa, the Indiansubcontinent, and Tibet, laying one or two eggs in mid-winter that hatch at the beginning of spring. Populations are resident.
The population of this species continues to decline. Until July 2014, it was classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as being of Least Concern; it has, however, since been reassessed as Near Threatened.
Bearded vulture is considered a threatened species in Iran. Iranian mythology considers the rare bearded vulture (Persian: هما, 'Homa') the symbol of luck and happiness. It was believed that if the shadow of a Homa fell on one, he would rise to sovereignty and anyone shooting the bird would die in forty days. The habit of eating bones and apparently not killing living animals was noted by Sa'di in Gulistan published in 1258 and Emperor Jahangir had the crop examined in 1625 to find that it was filled with bones.
The ancient Greeks used ornithomancers to guide their political decisions: bearded vultures, or ossifragae were one of the few species of birds that could yield valid signs to these soothsayers.
The Greek playwright Aeschylus was said to have been killed in 456 or 455 BC by a tortoise dropped by an eagle who mistook his bald head for a stone – if this incident did occur, the bearded vulture is a likely candidate for the "eagle".
In the Bible/Torah, the bearded vulture, as the ossifrage, is among the birds forbidden to be eaten.
More recently, in 1944, Shimon Peres (called Shimon Persky at the time) and David Ben-Gurion found a nest of bearded vultures in the Negev desert. The bird is called peres in Hebrew, and Shimon Persky liked it so much he adopted it as his surname.