4 Black vultures – and a potential bearded vulture – crossing the Gibraltar strait to Africa!
Last Friday was one of those days in Gibraltar – 4 black vultures (see photo), 2700 griffon vultures, one Spanish Imperial eagle and a mysterious raptor – that some say could be a bearded vulture – were counted by Cécile Krystelle, Radu Adrian and R. El Khamlichi, within the autumn census of vultures crossing the Gibraltar strait that GREPOM (a Moroccan ONG) is organising at Punta Cires (Tanger).
Black vultures are very rare and of irregular occurrence in Africa (Vulture Multispecies Action Plan, 2017), and so these 4 birds crossing to Morocco are of significance. One of the griffon vultures seen was from France (as it was ringed – see photo), which is interesting.
But what is catching the imagination of birders is the mysterious raptor that was photographed with all these birds – see photos. This bird was unmarked, and some suggest it may have been a juvenile, bearded vulture. If confirmed, this would be the first time this species is seen crossing the strait in historical times.
Bearded vultures in North Africa belonging to the same subspecies as the Eurasian ones (Gypaetus barbatus barbatus) and different from the ones in the rest of Africa (Ethiopia and South Africa), but is a very rare breeder – there are only a handful of pairs left in Morocco and Algeria.
The VCF and its partners have been reintroducing bearded vultures across Europe, part of the wider conservation programme to restore the bearded vulture metapopulation across its former distribution range in Europe, by securing genetic flow between discrete subpopulations.
That is why we are investing so much in the LIFE GYPCONNECT project, and we will also start next year a new reintroduction project in Maestrazgo (Valencia-Catalonia-Aragón, Spain), trying to connect the Pyrenean population with the Andalusia reintroduced one – where this year 2 pairs bred successfully in Cazorla, only 10 years after the reintroduction project started there.
Photos: R. El Khamlichi