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Cinereous Vultures set a new breeding season record in Bulgaria

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Conservation efforts for Cinereous Vultures in Bulgaria have achieved a significant milestone this year with a record-breaking breeding season in the wild.

cinereous vulture parent and chick in nest bulgaria
Cinereous Vulture adult and chick in the nest © Green Balkans

Successful hatching and breeding season

The Bearded Vulture LIFE team has been exceptionally busy this year, closely monitoring each pair and egg throughout the fruitful breeding season. Eleven pairs of Cinereous Vultures engaged in breeding activities, with six pairs successfully completing incubation and hatching their young. This success includes:

  • 3 chicks in Eastern Stara Planina
  • 3 chicks in the Vratsa Balkan and Ponor

In Vratsa Balkan Nature Park, the first Cinereous Vulture chick hatched for the first time. The pair, Kotlya and Varshec, celebrated the hatching of their chick on April 23, 2024. This event was tracked through Varshec’s GPS transmitter. Kotlya and Varshec have an intriguing history together. Both birds were donated by the Regional Government of Extremadura, Spain, and rehabilitated at the Los Hornos Rescue Center. Varshec, found caught on a wire fence, was transported to Bulgaria in 2019, while Kotlya, admitted with a fractured femur in 2018, was released into the wild in Vratsa Balkan Nature Park in 2020. They formed a pair in 2023 and successfully hatched their first chick this year, marking a significant achievement for park management and project partners.

Rescue of Cinereous Vulture chick that fell from the nest

Another successful pair, Marto and Kamchiya from Kotel, faced challenges this season. Despite initial success, their chick fell from the nest. In a remarkable rescue operation in Kotel Mountain, the fallen chick, only two months old, was urgently transported to the Green Balkans Wildlife Rescue Center. Top project volunteer Cornel Cotorogea noticed both parents at the feeding site simultaneously, indicating something was wrong. The local team from the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF) deployed a drone, discovering the chick had fallen under the tree. The bird, found dehydrated and weak but without injuries, was stabilized and began its recovery at the Rescue Centre.

Cinereous Vultures comeback in Bulgaria

Conservation efforts for the Cinereous Vulture in Bulgaria have been extraordinary. Following their extinction in Bulgaria in 1985, the species was successfully reintroduced in Kotel Mountain in 2021, with the first pair hatching a chick that fledged the nest. This achievement results from decades-long efforts to restore large vulture populations in Bulgaria, beginning with the Griffon Vulture and continuing with the Cinereous Vulture through the Vultures Back to LIFE project, initiated in 2015.

The population in Bulgaria is estimated at 17-20 pairs, with stabilization efforts continuing under the “Life for the Bearded Vulture” project, uniting eight partners from three European countries. Given the species’ high conservation status, each bird’s survival is crucial, warranting special care and dedicated conservation efforts.

The Bearded Vulture LIFE Project

The “Bearded Vulture LIFE” project is a comprehensive initiative, aiming to restore the Bearded Vulture and Cinereous Vulture across Bulgaria and the Balkans. With a budget of €5.17 million, co-funded by the European Union’s LIFE Programme, the project commenced in August 2023 and is expected to continue until 2030. Building upon the achievements of its predecessor, “Vultures Back to Life,” it is coordinated by Green Balkans, with five more partner organizations within Bulgaria, including the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, Foundation EkoObshtnost, EVN – Elektropradelenie Yug EAD, Severozapadno Darzhavno Predpriyatie – Vratsa, and “Sinite kamani” Nature Park Directorate. Furthermore, the project benefits from international collaboration, including the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), responsible for the translocation and safeguarding of captive-bred birds secured for release. Additionally, the partner Milvus group is responsible for executing conservation efforts in Romania.

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