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Boni: The first Andalusian Bearded Vulture to cross the Strait of Gibraltar

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Bearded Vulture Boni_Enrique Avila
Bearded Vulture Boni in flight © Enrique Avila/ Junta de Andalucía

The remarkable Boni is the first Bearded Vulture from Andalusia that crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and reached North Africa! Undoubtedly, these movements mark a milestone in the international Bearded Vulture conservation efforts and our ultimate objective to connect the species populations.

An important player in the Andalusian reintroduction project

The Bearded Vulture Boni is the ninth of eleven chicks hatched in Andalusia’s wild as a result of the ongoing Bearded Vulture reintroduction project in the region. His parents, Encina and Bigup, are captive-bred birds that were released into the wild a few years ago. In 2021, the pair’s breeding attempts paid off – they hatched and reared Boni until he left the nest, becoming their first offspring to successfully fledge.

From his first flights, they could see that Boni’s dispersive movements were striking. Some of the places he visited include Cape St. Vincent (Portuguese Algarve), Sierra Morena (Huelva-Seville), the Sierra de Las Nieves Natural Park (Malaga), Fuencaliente (Ciudad Real), as well as many other places in the Iberian Peninsula. A team from the Junta de Andalucía (Consejería de Agricultura, Pesca, Agua y Desarrollo Rural) closely follows his movements thanks to the monitoring efforts within this project. 

Monitoring Bearded Vultures in Andalusia

The monitoring team tags wild-hatched chicks in their nests to track their GPS movements, understand the species’ behaviour, assess the reintroduction project’s progress and inform more accurate conservation actions. Back in 2021, technicians from Seprona de la Guardia Civil and Coordinación Plan de Recuperación de Aves Necrófagas de Andalucía accessed Boni’s nest to equip him with a GPS transmitter, which allowed them to witness his recent intercontinental flight.

Bearded Vulture Boni crosses the Straits of Gibraltar

Boni The first Andalusian Bearded Vulture to cross the Strait of Gibraltar
The GPS movements showing Bearded Vulture Boni crossing the Strait of Gibraltar © Junta de Andalucía

This summer, the young Boni has gone down in history for being the first Bearded Vulture from Andalusia to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and reach North Africa. This is the first time in at least half a century that the crossing of an Iberian Bearded Vulture to Africa has been confirmed and tracked. When he arrived in Morocco, he remained in the northern part of the country for a few days before moving eastwards in an exploratory dispersal movement, reaching Oued Ouringa – between Tangier and Tétouan – more than 125 kilometres away in a straight line from the Jebel Musa mountain. His trip to Morocco commemorates a major step forward in the objectives of Bearded Vulture reintroduction efforts.

The Bearded Vulture reintroduction project in Andalusia

Bearded Vultures went extinct in Andalusia in 1986 mainly due to direct persecution, wildlife poisoning and human disturbance at the nesting sites. To bring them back, the Junta de Andalucía and the Vulture Conservation Foundation launched a reintroduction project in 1996, and the former Fundación Gypaetus was also created to manage the project. The project has been mitigating threats and, since 2006, released 83 Bearded Vultures in the provinces of Jaén and Granada. Thanks to these targeted conservation actions, the Bearded Vulture is breeding again in Andalusia. Today, the species occupies ten breeding territories, and its population is gradually increasing, with over 40 Bearded Vultures present in Andalusia.

Connecting Bearded Vulture populations 

The reintroduction programme’s ultimate objective is to connect the European Bearded Vulture populations with those of North Africa, which have possibly been isolated for many decades. At the end of the 1980s, the Bearded Vulture disappeared from the entire Iberian Peninsula except for the Pyrenees. By then, the species populations were already residual and unable to connect with the African population. So, it is very likely that there has been no such exchange of Bearded Vulture individuals for more than half a century – until now!

Source: Junta de Andalucía

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