Do Any Animals Use Cosmetics?

Bearded vultures are found in many parts of the world, from southern Europe and the east coast of Africa to the Middle East and the Himalayas. They have naturally white plumage on their head, neck, and underbelly. As they age, however, they begin to intentionally dye those feathers an orange-red color with mud from iron-rich soils. Scientists think they do this to indicate their status. The intensity of the coloration depends on age and gender. Older birds, especially females, display stronger pigmentation.

Vulture vanity:

  • A bearded vulture often handles conflict by puffing out and displaying its fabulous dyed feathers.
  • The birds first dip their undersides in the mud, then use their beaks and talons to spread the tint from foot to neck. They dye their heads by rubbing them against their stained shoulders.
  • Bearded vultures love to dine on bone marrow; they get at it by dropping large bones from high cliffs. The bones shatter, and dinner is served.
More Info: National Wildlife Federation

Discussion Comments


Maybe the mud has some properties that fight infection or pests?


Find this info hard to believe. I believe the birds are preening themselves,and not dying themselves. The coloration would come naturally from the color of the mud.

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