Black vulture shows up in the eastern Alps

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Once widespread throughout southern Europe, the black vulture now has a disjunct distribution, with the stronghold in Western Europe (Portugal-Spain-France) and then a single colony in the Balkans, in Dadia (northeast Greece), where the breeding population has been stable (totalling about 35 pairs) due to the valiant conservation efforts there implemented by WWF Greece.

However, the populations in Spain (2,500 breeding pairs), France (35 pairs) and Portugal (10 pairs) have been increasing, and so have the number of observations of this species outside their normal breeding ground

On June 18th and 19th, an immature black vulture has been observed in the vulture supplementary feeding point of the Riserva Naturale Regionale del Lago di Cornino in NE Italy (46° 13’ 44” N, 13° 1’ 20” E) (see photos). Black vultures were observed in the area in 2005 (Ophrys born 2002, released in Baronnies in 2005– F), 2011 (Oviedo born in the wild in Cevennes in 2010 – F), 2012 (Oviedo and another bird), 2013 and 2014 (Oviedo and 2 more birds). The maximum number observed was 3, from different ages and, up to now, two birds with marks, both from France.  Oviedo was observed for 4 consecutive years. Birds were observed only during the summer (from end of May to beginning of October). The time of presence in the first years was long including nearly all summer. From 2014 the birds were present only for a brief time in Italy, preferring the high mountains of the National Park Hohe Tauern (distant about 100 km from the feeding point). In 2015 and 2016, 1-3 Black Vultures were observed in the Austrian National Park where about 50-100 Griffon Vultures are regularly present in summer (Michael Knollseisen PNHT).

The VCF and other partners are now starting a LIFE project to reintroduce the species to the Central Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria – with first releases planned for 2018. With the increasing populations in western Europe, a stable colony in Dadia and the LIFE project the VCF and other partners are now implementing in Bulgaria, we that soon this species spreads across Europe, and slowly starts to restore its former distribution range.

Photos: Fulvio Genero

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