In the Alpi Marittime, a new Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) pair produced offspring this season in the wild, a milestone for the species’ return to the Southern Italian Alps. Although it is the second time a Bearded Vulture fledges in Piedmont (the first hatched in 2019), it is the first time a chick is reared successfully in the Upper Maira Valley in the municipality of Acceglio.
Alpi Marittime welcomes a new Bearded Vulture fledgling in the wild
The male Bearded Vulture, Roman, was captive-bred and released in the Italian region of Entracque in 2015. Paired with a female of unknown origin, they raised and fledged an offspring for the first time in the Upper Maira Valley, Piedmont. The news was shared by the Alpi Marittime Protected Areas managing Authority, which has been monitoring the pair since the start of this breeding season with the support of several volunteers.
After building their nest in the valley, the female laid a clutch at the beginning of February, and the chick hatched at the end of March. Although it is probably their first offspring, the dedicated pair reared successfully their chick, which took its first flight on 31 July.
The second Bearded Vulture reproduction in the Piedmont region
The Alpine Vulture and Raptors Centre (Centro Avvoltoi e Rapaci Alpine) monitors all raptor species across the Piedmont Protected Areas encompassing the Alpi Marittime and Alpi Cozie. According to their report from the second semester of 2022, 72 observations of Bearded Vultures were registered in the Alpi Marittime and Cuneese, with the identification of seven adults, one subadult, four immature and one juvenile bird. The breeding pair, which remained in the area throughout the year, began constructing their nest in a cave towards the year’s end, raising hopes among the team for a potential successful reproduction.
It is the second time a fledgling is reared in the wild in Piedmont, with the first chick fledged in Usseglio, Province of Turin, in 2019. According to a scientific article published back then, a Bearded Vulture pair had attempted to breed in 2016. In the following winter, 2017-2018, the monitoring team could not confirm the pair’s potential nesting area due to the extreme snow events. In late spring, no observations of the two adults were recorded, leading the team to assume a breeding failure. By the end of 2018, the male was seen again in the region, this time paired with a different female. Finally, in the spring of 2019, the first hatchling was recorded in the Piedmont region since the reintroduction project started in the Alps. The bird, named “Belavrí” (W288), left its nest in August and was often seen with its parents until the end of Novembre 2019.
Bringing the Bearded Vulture back to the (Italian) Alps
Across the Alpine range, Bearded Vultures became extinct at the beginning of the 20th century. There were some individuals observed in Italy in 1924 and 1930 but did not reproduce. After almost 70 years after its extinction, a group of experts from several countries (the founders of VCF) started a project to bring the species back to the Alps. The first Bearded Vultures releases happened in 1986 in the Hohe Tauern National Park (Austria). Still, the first pair successfully breeding in the Alpine region was recorded in France in 1997, setting a landmark for the species’ return!
Italy recorded the second breeding success of the species in the Alps, with a fledgling in 1998 in Stelvio National Park. In the Western Italian Alps, the first reproduction was recorded in 2012 in Valle d’Aosta. In 2019, there were 15 breeding pairs in Italy, 9 in Stelvio, 5 in Valle D’Aosta and Gran Paradiso National Park, and one in the Torino Province. Several breeding attempts have been registered in other Italian Alpine areas.
Source: Ente di gestione delle Aree protette delle Alpi Marittime