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Bearded vulture spotted at supplementary feeding station in France with missing talons and digits

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(c) LPO Aude
(c) LPO Aude

During the Annual Bearded Vulture Meeting in Cazorla last week we heard some interesting cases of pathologies and the veterinary innovations that are helping these birds. We thought we’d share some of those over the coming weeks and starting with a case of a wild bird that was caught on a camera trap earlier this month in the French pre-Pyrenees. 

The case involved an adult bearded vulture that was a regular visitor to a supplementary feeding station managed by a farmer, south of the Corbières, in the French pre-Pyrenees (Aude). In areas of France with vultures, farmers can apply to have a small site where they leave some animal sub.-products and certain carcasses for scavengers, in what is a sustainable, efficient and natural way of disposing of dead animals in a farming environment that is good for vultures and for the wider society.

An adult bearded vulture was photographed last May and June with a lameness in the right leg, which was the result of an unhealed amputation of a whole digit and part of another, with its talons completely missing on the right foot (see photo above). The wound seemed rather infected, even though in subsequent days it improved, and although the bird still presented a lameness, it didn’t seem to suffer from it, and was feeding normally. However, it should be noted that the bird has not been seen since the summer at the feeding station. 

(c) LPO Aude
(c) LPO Aude

The second case involved another adult bearded vulture who regularly visits a supplementary feeding station in the Hautes Corbières massif. This station was set within the framework of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project, to try to attract bearded vultures from the high Pyrenees eastwards towards the Massif Central, and thus establish a connection with the reintroduced population there, as part of the european-wide efforts to connect populations.

Just like the first bird this second bearded vulture appears to have lost one digit (see photo above). It was initially a concern as it was a breeding male, but those fears were unfounded as the bird was seen several times without any visual sign of any impact or effect.

It’s not known what could have caused these two very similar injuries, but bearded vultures are highly territorial and it is possible that they result from fights with conspecifics or with other raptors such as golden eagles. This area is one of recent and expanding recolonisation of the bearded vulture, and it is possible that wandering birds looking for a territory are more exposed to those fights.

Soon we’ll share the interesting case of the first prosthesis in a bearded vulture. 

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