Review and images by Lanthanotus; edited by bmathison1972
The cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) is one of the largest raptorial birds of Europe, with wingspans reaching close to 3 metres. It is also known as the black vulture (despite not being black at all, but at least considerably darker than other vultures) and in my home country Germany it is usually called monk vulture, for its head appears like it wears a tonsure. Nowadays, the European distribution is restricted to the southern parts of Europe, with the main population inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. After all, modern Europe does not offer the best opportunities for thriving populations of large, natural scavengers.
As we are used with most bird species, there are not a lot options to choose from, in this specific case Bullyland may be the one and only major company ever to have released this animal in toy form. It was released in 2007 and, according to toyanimal.info, retired in 2014. It can be hard to find on the second-hand market, but Bullyland lists the vulture in its 2021 catalogue (page 91), though with a much brighter paint scheme. Let’s have a look at their first go….
As you can see our figure is quite battered; that’s because I bought it used in a lot and my son uses it as a toy rather than on my display. It is therefore also stored in a simple drawer with all his other animals and dinosaurs. Bullyland’s paint often rubs off easier than on other companies’ models, such as Schleich, but originally, the paint job was quite good and true to the real animal as it appears in Europe. The plumage is brown with the wings’ and tail’s edges are hold in a darker hue. This darker hue also patterns the head’s tonsure while the area around the eyes is of a light blue and the beak of a light yellow. The feet are white with dark grey claws, both feet are inserted to the PVC body and of the exact same sculpt, meaning there are two right (or left) feet. That may sound weird, but in fact does not distract from an overall authentic look and allows the figure to be displayed in different stances, as if waggling about the ground in that awkward way big raptorial birds walk.
The figure measures around 17.5 cm in wingspan and stands around 4.5 cm tall at the shoulder. The sculpting is not as intricate as in most of CollectA’s, Papo’s, or Schleich’s birds, but still very nicely replicates the shaggy look of the vulture. The head with the strong beak and characteristic head is especially well done, as well as the wing feathers. The wide-stretched wings with the low head and walking legs allows for nice play features as well as a sure stand in a display collection. The light and flexible material is sturdy and withstands the roughest play.
I find Bullyland’s cinereous vulture one of the most characteristic raptorial bird figures out there. It is true to the anatomy of the animal, while still catching Bullyland’s own charm in sculpting wildlife, and is great toy and display model at once. I’d prefer if it was still being available in the original color scheme, but for those who missed it, get the new edition.