Posted by: atowhee | October 12, 2012


Most Anglophones come to Provence for the wine, a bit of sunshine, some lavender-scented air, the olive oil, the chocolateries, the apricots in all forms, the food, the life. Be warned: Peter Mayle over-sold and thus trashed his little village here, then moved off the Caribbean. But much rural and tasty remains. I just survived the wineries of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a large chocloate factory and then managed to drive home.
But a birder’s gotta bird. So this week we wound our way up a narrow road along the River L’Eygues into the canyon they call “Gorges de St. May.” There to see the Griffon Vultures. This bird has an eight-foot wingspan, about the same as a White Pelican, slightly less than a California Condor. They often fly in flocks of 20 or more. We found them soaring along the cliff edge about 1000 feet above the canyon floor.

Where are these great birds? About 100 miles northeast of Avignon in the western foothills of the Alps. The gorge is at about 1500′, the cliffs another 1000′ feet higher. This provides great drafts of air and perfect soaring conditions. Plus the Griffon Vultures nest in large cliff-face colonies. I once sawa cliff at Montfrague in western Spain with 300 G-V nests. And a single Black Vulture nest. We did see one Black Vulture here in France, soaring with the G-Vs. Some Ravens went past, looking puny indeed. Common Swifts looked like miniatures. More pictures:

Here is a French language website with some information on the Association Vautours de Baronnies.
The road and then trail that takes you to the lookout at vulture-eye level is reach through the small village of St. May which is reach only by auto or seriously bicycling. This species as restored to France only 20 years ago after extirpation. Big birds are easy to shoot. The Egyptian Vulture and Lammergeier are also resident in the area of St. May and Rezumat. This is in the province of Drome just north of Provence.
Here is a website in English that lists some other Griffon Vulture re-introduction sites.
Oct 11, 2012 12:45 PM. Comments: Gorgeous gorge and marvelous villages.
10 species. Black Vulture 1 Is re-established in area around Rezumat, France.
Eurasian Griffon 35
Common Buzzard 1
Common Swift 5
Eurasian Jay 2
Eurasian Magpie 1
Carrion Crow 2
Common Raven 15
Black Redstart 1
House Sparrow 50


  1. […] A Eurasian vulture ranks among the coolest birds I have ever seen. Years ago I saw a flock of recently reintroduced Griffon Vultures in a canyon in southeastern France.  Click here for the blog I wrote at that time. […]

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