Are these griffon vultures?

Hi, I recently took this photo while on Mount Pilatus in the Swiss Alps - large birds soaring high above the mountain. I was wondering if they might be vultures - possibly griffon vultures? There were six birds in all. Any thoughts much appreciated.

  • Hi Wrenny, they certainly look like Griffon Vultures, very unusual in the Alps to my knowledge, they favour much drier habitat towards the Mediterranean, like Spain, Turkey etc.
  • A total of ninety-four posted as sighted in Switzerland in the last five days Wrenny. I gather they're currently on the move.

    If you can tell me more precisely where you were and the date, I can tell you (from if the birds were seen there on that day.

    Above is a photo from Boltigen last Friday (from a poster on

    All the best -


  • Mt Pilatus is near Lucerne, Dave. Very nice cog railway.
  • Indeed Robbo. And a nice town too. Pilatus, though, has a couple of different reporting zones and knowing where would save me a bit of time (the search engine doesn't allow searching in multiple locations (annoying in places like, say, Fanel/La Sauge, where there are maybe a dozen sites)).
    I've e-mailed BirdLife Switzerland for Wrenny and asked if that sighting was possible off the mountain. We'll see what they say...

    All the best -
  • In reply to Mr. B:

    Hi Mr B,

  • In reply to Mr. B:

    Hi Mr B, that's great to hear - thank you.  I'll upload a few more photos. 

  • Hi Dave, thanks very much for that info. The photos were taken at midday on Friday 19th July from the summit of Mount Pilatus above Lucerne.  I took all the photos from the public area there. I first saw the birds on the Lake Lucerne side of the mountain then noticed them circling on the other side of the mountain.  Here are a few more pictures (I have more if of interest). I’ve also included a picture of the viewing area from which I took the photos.  Hope this is useful.

  • Hello Wrenny. You're welcome.
    I haven't heard back from Vogelwarte yet. When I do, I'll post their opinion here.

    I searched 20 days back and the closest I can find for sightings is Brienz or Schynige; nothing for Pilatus, but I'm not sure those who post on the site would be up there, if you see what I mean (nice as it is).

    They're certainly being sighted here (searching the entire country pulls up 9 pages of sightings), but mostly further west, including up on the migration passage point at Wassescheide/Gürnigel (pre-Alps, I guess we'd call that).

    You'll find some (hopefully) interesting graphics here,, and can, I guess, see that your sightings aren't entirely out of the question.

    If you have any possible confusion species in mind, let me know; I'm happy to search other species for you for around that date (you could join the site, but would be extremely limited to search dates (the more one posts, the further one can search back)).

    Best regards -
  • Hi Dave,
    The and Vogelwarte websites are really useful - thank you. I look forward to the response from Vogelwarte. Thanks for the offer re: confusion species. Although the birds are pretty distant in my photos, I can't think of another species that would match the markings that are visible. Any suggestions would be appreciated :)
    Best regards, Wrenny
  • Hi Wrenny,
    No answer from Sempach as yet. They may be short-staffed as tomorrow is a national holiday, but I've always found them to be very responsive. I'm actually surprised that I haven't had an answer yet (if someone had posted and the sighting was unusual, they would have been in touch immediately (or, as we say at home, 'Have they rung the doorbell yet?'))

    I've no experience to offfer re confusion species. I did wonder if they were Lammergeier, as there's an extensive population here, but the markings (etc.) clearly say not.

    I'll post what I have when I get a response from Sempach; in the meantime, perhaps vulture enthousiasts could take a look at your photos (our posts will bump this thread up in some views).

    All the best -