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Day 2 Insights from the European Vulture Conference 2023

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Day two of the European Vulture Conference began with two keynote speeches addressing vulture-predator-human relationships and the movement ecology perspective on migratory vultures. The focus then shifted to the connection between skull shape and feeding ecology in vultures and continued with a talk on the LIFE Aegypius Return project, which is responsible for the implementation of the conference. The day included a poster session, three parallel sessions of speed talks, and concluded with roundtables and workshops. After all the scientific talks, around 300 participants joined the cultural visit to Cáceres, where they had the opportunity to explore the old history of the old town, declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO. It was another intense day with many vulture conservation and research insights, summarized in this blog post.

day 2 european vulture conference insights

Morning sessions

Auditorium

Keynote Speech: Vultures, predators and humans: a story of interactions

Marcos Moleon Pais

Dr. Marcos Moleón Paiz’s speech explored intricate vulture-predator interactions, crucial for understanding behaviour, evolution, and carrion recycling. Predators, including humans, exhibit scavenging behaviour. The Industrial Revolution became a turning point that disrupted the harmony between the two, posing challenges for vultures in finding carrion. This not only threatened their survival but also the ecosystem services they provided to humans. However, there was a shift from competition to cooperation between humans and scavengers over time. These interactions shaped human evolution, influencing language, social cooperation skills, and even ecotourism. Camera traps revolutionize scavenging studies, revealing avoidance of predator carcasses by predatory/mammalian scavengers, reducing disease risk. Food dynamics involve competition and facilitation between predators and scavengers. The speech also highlighted the fragile balance vultures face today, with the risk of extinction looming. Nonetheless, there were promising solutions presented, focusing on managing ungulate populations and carrion resources in a vulture-friendly manner. The goal is to achieve a balanced coexistence between humans and these important scavengers.

Keynote Speech: Conservation challenges and opportunities for migratory vultures: a movement ecology perspective

Pascual Lopez Lopez

Pascual López López’s keynote on Egyptian Vulture migration highlighted key findings: Eastern subpopulations cover larger distances, with higher autumn speeds and lower straightness in Balkan subpopulations. Migratory connectivity showed low overlap within subpopulations but high at large scales. Mortality, mainly human-induced, was higher in Eastern subpopulations during fall migration. Survival rates were lowest during migration but increased with age, favouring wintering over breeding grounds. In Spain, social attraction influenced residency, particularly near farms. Predictable food sources might drive non-migratory population growth. Resident birds had higher energy expenditure in flapping flight, while migratory and resident vultures exhibited similar breeding success rates.

Carrion converging: Skull shape is predicted by feeding ecology in vultures

Katherine Steinfield

In a nuanced study on vulture skull morphology, researchers challenge the notion that diet alone dictates form at smaller evolutionary scales. Analysing 23 vulture species’ skulls using 3D geometric morphometrics, the team unveils distinct feeding strategies—ripper, gulper, and scrapper. While family lines show clear divergence in shape, the connection between diet and skull form weakens when accounting for phylogeny. Surprisingly, skull shape proves a robust predictor of feeding ecology, underlining the significance of nuanced behavioural analysis in ecomorphology studies, urging a move beyond broad dietary categories to comprehend the intricacies of evolutionary adaptation.

LIFE Aegypius Return: Consolidating the return of the Critically Endangered Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) to Portugal and Western Spain

Milene Matos

The Cinereous Vulture, that went extinct in Portugal and returned via after Spanish birds actually recolonised, sees hope for their consolidation and expansion in Portugal and Western Spain with the LIFE Aegypius Return project. The project aims to improve breeding success, and connectivity between colonies. Actions include habitat protection, fire prevention, nesting platforms, enhanced food availability, and anti-poisoning efforts. Collaboration with stakeholders is vital to combat wildlife crime. Led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the project signals a coordinated effort to elevate the Cinereous Vulture’s conservation status from Critically Endangered to Endangered. This breeding season in Portugal for the Cinereous Vulture, 78-81 breeding pairs were counted, thanks to the monitoring and protection efforts of the local team, 35-38 chicks joined the population.

Using survival analysis from telemetry and transects to assess short-term population trends in vultures

Corinne Kendall

Southern Tanzania emerges as a crucial haven for African vultures, yet recent telemetry and transect studies unveil alarming declines, especially in White-backed vulture populations. Telemetry highlights the prevalence of poisoning, a pervasive threat across the rugged landscape. Despite the challenges in pinpointing causes of death, this research underscores the urgency in mitigating poisoning risks to safeguard vulture populations. This multi-method approach, combining telemetry and transect data, proves essential for comprehending short-term vulture population trends and devising effective conservation strategies in the face of escalating threats.

High annual survival rates and breeding success aid continued recovery of the Critically Endangered White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis population in Nepal.

John Mallord

The Critically Endangered White-rumped Vulture population in Nepal has benefited from high survival rates and breeding success, aiding its recovery. Diclofenac poisoning caused catastrophic declines, but banning its use led to a halt in population decline. Vulture numbers increased in Nepal, but remain low. Vulture Safe Zones and effective conservation measures were credited for the positive trend.

Project SURVIVALIST: SURVIVAL In Space and Time: Identifying mortality bottlenecks along the annual cycle of vultures

Andrea Santangeli

Project SURVIVALIST aimed to enhance our understanding of vulture survival rates and mortality patterns throughout the annual cycle. By analyzing a comprehensive dataset of vulture tracking data from three European vulture species, the project identified hotspots of vulture mortality and revealed variations in survival rates across different life stages. Preliminary findings indicated consistent adult annual survival rates across species and populations, while juvenile and immature survival rates showed more variability. The project highlighted the importance of standardizing life history data for accurate analysis.

Interspecific relationships during Griffon Vulture overwintering in Africa

Eneko Arrondo

A recent expedition to Senegal shed light on the interspecific relationships between Iberian Griffon Vultures and local vultures during the wintering period. Contrary to expectations, juvenile Griffon Vultures were found to have positive associations with two local Gyps species (Gyps rueppelli and Gyps africanus) as well as Torgos tracheliotos. These findings contribute to our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary significance of Griffon Vultures’ surprising juvenile migration. The insights gained from this study have implications for European vulture conservation efforts.

Release strategies for the California Condor Recovery Program

Chandra David

The California Condor Recovery Program faced challenges in saving the species, with a population decline to 22 individuals by 1982. Captive breeding was initiated, but unexpected tameness and habituation required refining release strategies. Learnings from Andean condors and the presence of an established wild flock helped in rearing and learning for released condors. Focus was placed on preparing chicks to require less management. Through experimentation, effective techniques were gradually identified.

Patterns of parental investment in nesting California Condors

Estelle Sandhaus

A study was conducted on nesting California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) to understand parental investment patterns. With low fecundity and one chick raised every two years, successful nesting outcomes are crucial for their conservation. The study found differences in visit frequency and incubation behaviour between sexes across nest stages. Food provisioning rates declined over the nestling phase. These insights enhance conservation management efforts and offer comparative perspectives on vulture behaviour.

Sala Europa

How hungry are Griffon Vultures?

Olivier Duriez

Field studies on Griffon Vultures revealed that their daily energy needs were estimated at 1313 kJ/day, challenging previous figures based on captive vultures. Accurate estimates of energy expenditure are essential for determining carrying capacity and making informed conservation decisions. The study highlighted the importance of conducting field measurements to understand the daily food intake of wild vultures and re-evaluate carrying capacity models. Further research on vulture body mass and food collection is underway.

The effects of food predictability on the foraging ecology of African White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus)

Mattie Purinton

The foraging ecology of African White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus) was investigated to understand the effects of food predictability. As natural food sources decrease and human activity increases in Africa, vultures have shifted to utilizing human-mediated sources like abattoirs and vulture restaurants. GPS telemetry data from four vulture populations were analyzed to determine foraging patterns and differences in movement behaviour. This research provides insights into vultures’ adaptability and how resource predictability impacts scavengers.

The effects of food predictability on the foraging ecology of African White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus)

Mattie Purinton

The study examined the impact of food predictability on the foraging habits of African White-backed Vultures. With decreasing natural areas and increasing human activity, vultures have shifted from natural sources to human-mediated ones like abattoirs and vulture restaurants. By analyzing GPS data from vulture populations in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and South Africa, researchers aimed to understand how this change affected their foraging behaviour. The findings will help conservationists predict vulture adaptability and their response to environmental changes.

Management of food availability as a conservation tool for the Cinereous Vulture population (Aegypius monachus) in the Portuguese-Spanish bordering area

David Delgado

The Cinereous Vulture population in the Portuguese-Spanish border area has been severely affected by food scarcity since the 1990s. To address this, the LIFE Aegypius return project aims to manage food availability by diagnosing trophic resources and developing a strategy for sustainable access to higher-quality food. By promoting non-fenced feeding areas and implementing lead-free hunting practices, the project seeks to improve breeding success and upgrade the vulture’s conservation status from Critically Endangered to Endangered in Portugal.

Of vultures and drones: Assessing the potential of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for European vultures research

Richard Zink

The potential of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to improve vulture research and conservation is acknowledged. However, due to a lack of long-term disturbance data, a precautionary approach is recommended. Species-specific recommendations are provided to minimize negative impacts and maximize the value of UASs. Consideration of vulture reproduction, standardized monitoring protocols, and documentation of observed impacts are emphasized. Additional uses of UASs for vulture conservation and research are suggested.

Vultures’ foraging network: a century-old hypothesis investigated with radar

Yohan Sassi

The study investigated the century-old hypothesis of vultures’ foraging network using radar technology. It explored the social cues and spatial distribution of vultures during foraging. The results provide insights into the coordinated patterns of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) movements and offer practical recommendations for vulture conservation and research.

Sala García Matos

Threats for carrion birds in Extremadura and their management

María Jesús Palacios

Carrion birds in Extremadura face various threats such as poisoning, electrocution, collisions, and intoxication. A retrospective study analyzed admissions of Black Vultures, Griffon Vultures, and Egyptian Vultures to wildlife recovery centers. Measures include veterinary examinations, investigations, and corrective actions. The General Directorate of Sustainability implements preventive measures and conservation projects. The tagging of birds aids in detecting threats.

LIFE Safe for Vultures – implementation of conservation actions and population status

Fiammetta Berlinguer

Sardinia’s Griffon Vulture (GV) population, once dwindling, experienced a remarkable rebound, soaring from 97-110 individuals in 2014 to 316-338 in 2022, thanks to the LIFE Under Griffon Wings project. The ongoing LIFE Safe for Vultures initiative seeks to further enhance GV habitats and bolster anti-poison efforts, recruiting hunters for lead-free ammunition trials. Measures include securing energy infrastructure against collisions and electrocution, evaluating wind farm impacts on GV movement, and fostering public awareness through community engagements. With expanded farm feeding stations and acclimatization efforts, the project aims to ensure sustained growth and protection of Sardinia’s GV population.

Vulture status and perspective in Montenegro – insights and challenges

Nikola Novović

Montenegro, once a haven for European vultures, now faces a dire situation with all four species extinct locally. The Center for Protection and Research of Birds (CZIP) employs satellite monitoring to identify crucial vulture locations. Urgent action is imperative, addressing poisoning and poaching through regional collaborations. The proposal for a vulture feeding station emerges as a pivotal solution, ensuring safe food sources and improved waste disposal practices. CZIP’s vital role is acknowledged, but the recovery of Montenegro’s vulture populations hinges on a united front against threats, highlighting the need for regional initiatives and innovative measures like the supplementary feeding station.

Wildfire effects on Cinereous Vulture breeding and habitat use in the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park

Sylvia Zakkak

The Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park (DLS) Cinereous Vulture (CV) colony faced a severe test when a 2022 wildfire razed 4,000 hectares, nearly reaching nests and destroying feeding infrastructure. Astonishingly, breeding success remained unaffected, and telemetry data revealed uninterrupted corridor and roosting site usage. Even the burnt supplementary feeding station (SFS) drew regular visits during the fire. While some small-scale shifts were noted, long-term responses to fire-induced changes will be monitored. This resilience underscores the need for continued conservation efforts in the face of environmental challenges in the DLS CV colony.

Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) recolonisation of Herdade da Contenda (Southeastern Portugal): characterisation, evolution and conservation

Eduardo Santos

Targeted conservation efforts have successfully led to the recolonization of Cinereous Vultures in Herdade da Contenda, Southeastern Portugal. Since 2015, the number of breeding pairs in the area has gradually increased, reaching a record high of 17-18 pairs in 2023. The implementation of conservation measures has been crucial for the species’ recovery in Portugal, which currently breeds in only four different areas in the country. The recolonization of Herdade da Contenda provides valuable insights for the conservation of Cinereous Vultures in this region and potentially in similar contexts.

The discovery of a new colony of Cinereous Vultures in Malcata Nature Reserve: population status and prospects

Pedro Ribeiro

In Portugal, the critically endangered Cinereous Vultures have found an unexpected haven in Malcata Nature Reserve. After the discovery of a breeding pair in 2021, GPS tracking revealed diverse behaviours among juveniles. One ventured to West Africa for winter, while another discovered a new nest in Malcata. Rewilding efforts, led by Rewilding Portugal, unveiled 10 breeding couples, showcasing a more advanced expansion than anticipated. Threats like monocultures and forestry practices persist, but a rewilding strategy aims to enhance food sources and reintroduce biodiversity, potentially securing the vultures’ foothold in the Central Mountainous System.

Afternoon sessions – Speed talks

Auditorium

Wind farms and raptors: unveiling the challenges and solutions for vulture conservation

Irene Estellés-Domingo

As wind farms become vital for renewable energy, a comprehensive review of 155 studies reveals their impact on raptors, particularly vultures. Mountaintop wind farms pose risks for soaring raptors, causing avoidance behaviors and population decline. While some populations recover over time, effective mitigation strategies remain contentious. Proposing field monitoring, GPS telemetry, and carcass searches, the study suggests on-demand shutdowns and repowering as potential solutions. Acknowledging conflicts of interest is crucial, and evaluating mitigation measures becomes imperative amid global renewable energy expansion. Balancing sustainable energy needs with vulture conservation is essential for ecosystem health.

Monitoring Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) collision with wind turbines in the central Apennines (Italy)

Nicolò Borgianni

Wind farms in the central Apennines, overlapping with Griffon Vulture habitat, pose a threat to these soaring birds. Systematic monitoring, initiated in 2022, revealed a significant underestimation of vulture fatalities before 2021. Out of 56 surveys, eight Griffon Vulture carcasses were found at Collarmele windfarm, along with remains of other birds. Cocullo wind farm recorded one GPS-tagged vulture fatality. The study emphasizes the need for continued monitoring, combining systematic surveys and GPS-telemetry. Accurate data is crucial for understanding mortality impact, identifying patterns, and implementing effective mitigation strategies to safeguard Griffon Vulture populations.

To fly or not to fly in the rotor swep zone? Detection-reaction systems can protect Griffon Vultures against collision on wind farms

Dariusz Gorecki

Griffon Vultures face an escalating threat from wind farm collisions in Spain. Ornithological data from 2021-2022 reveals that permanent feeding grounds significantly heighten collision risk, emphasizing the urgency for protective measures. Detection-reaction systems utilising stereovision technology show promise in mitigating collisions by halting turbines when vultures approach. Ongoing consultations with Spanish experts aim to validate these strategies through pilot tests in vulture-populated areas. As wind energy expands, this research underscores the vital role technology can play in safeguarding Griffon Vulture populations from fatal encounters with turbines.

Current status of Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in Greece: population monitoring results and identification of critical habitats

Apostolis Kaltsis

In Greece, the Griffon Vulture faces critical endangerment, except for a stable Cretan population. A national conservation initiative, LIFE IP 4 NATURA, employs a Multi-Species Action Plan (MsAP), resulting in a Ministerial Decision and ongoing implementation by the Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece. Systematic monitoring, conducted in collaboration with research institutes and state authorities, reveals a population increase of 10-20%, particularly in mainland and Naxos. With approximately 426 breeding pairs, 85% in Crete, and a 70% success rate, the positive trend attributes to concerted efforts in mitigating threats. Future management will intensify in identified Sensitivity Zones, securing a brighter future for Greek vulture populations.

Long-term Griffon Vulture population development in the Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria

Dobromir Dobrev

The Griffon Vulture, once nearing extinction in Bulgaria, has made a remarkable recovery. From a mere few pairs in the 1980s, the population soared to 130 pairs in 2019. In the Eastern Rhodopes, focused conservation efforts witnessed an increase from 47 pairs in 2010 to 120 pairs in 2023, with breeding success reaching 0.77 chicks per pair. Notably, 668 chicks successfully fledged between 2010-2023. Marking and tracking initiatives, anti-poisoning measures, and extensive feeding efforts played pivotal roles in this remarkable conservation success, offering hope for the Griffon Vulture’s sustained revival.

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in Kazakhstan

Alyona Kaptyonkina

In Kazakhstan, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture faces an alarming decline, with a staggering 90% decrease in active nests observed between 2010 and 2022. Previously considered common, recent findings question its status, particularly in the Karatau mountains, the sole confirmed breeding site. The cause of this rapid decline remains elusive, but government data implicates the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) containing diclofenac and ketoprofen. Surprisingly, despite the crisis, the Griffon Vulture lacks protected status in Kazakhstan. Urgent conservation actions are recommended to comprehend and address the reported threats to this significant avian species.

Vultures Conservation Status in Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Shobrak

In Saudi Arabia, a comprehensive study on seven vulture species reveals critical insights. Lappet-faced vultures, extensively studied, exhibit varying nesting patterns over 30 years. Egyptian vultures face declining breeding and migrant populations, with a congregation site identified. Breeding success differs between regions, notably at King Salman Royal Reserve and Tanumah. Griffon vultures may form a metapopulation, as evidenced by tagged individuals breeding in Tanumah. Sadly, the Bearded Vulture is likely extinct. Threats like poisoning and powerline collisions prompt conservation measures, including isolating dangerous powerlines, legislative actions, and expanding protected areas from 4.3% to 16.86%, aiming for 30% by 2030.

An overview of the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group – 2012-2023

André Botha and Christopher R. Bowden

Founded in 2012, the Vulture Specialist Group (VSG) under the IUCN Species Survival Commission is a beacon for vulture conservation. Comprising experts, the VSG aims to raise awareness and coordinate impactful activities for both Old- and New World vultures. This presentation delves into the group’s evolution, structure, and accomplishments, emphasizing the support and advantages it provides to members. As a hub of vulture expertise, the VSG stands as a pivotal force in the ongoing battle for vulture survival, fostering collaboration and driving effective conservation strategies.

Sala Europa

The Bearded Vulture in Germany – results from the first three releases (2021-2023)

Toni Wegscheider

Once native to the Bavarian Alps, the Bearded Vulture faced extinction in 1879. Now, the Landesbund für Vogel und Naturschutz (LBV) and Berchtesgaden National Park’s reintroduction project aims to revive the species in Bavaria and the eastern Alps. Since 2021, six vultures have been released, with plans until 2030. This initiative not only showcases local conservation efforts but also sparks widespread public interest, influencing the eastern alpine population positively.

Assessing vulture nesting site selection in Namibia: The influence of microscale landscape structures using drone-based methods. Survey of two endangered vulture species at Kuzikus Wildlife Reserve

Candy Marleen Fahrenholz

In Namibia’s Wildlife Reserve Kuzikus, a pioneering study employs Unoccupied Aerial Systems (UAS) to observe Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures. A ground-based survey identifies potential nesting sites, and 34 drone flights, executed with care, provide data for a random forest-based classification. Machine learning analyses consider landscape elements, enhancing understanding of nesting patterns. Crucially, the study aims to develop practical conservation measures by exploring species distribution, nesting behaviours, and environmental factors influencing breeding site selection. This innovative approach ensures efficient data collection for informed vulture preservation strategies in the face of declining populations.

Heading south, but to where? A shifting distribution of breeding Lappet-faced Vultures (Torgos tracheliotos) is impacted by fire and elephants in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Campbell Murn

The Lappet-faced Vulture, classified as Endangered, reveals its breeding mysteries in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Monitored since 2008, the 40-50 nest population discloses a mean productivity of 0.73 chicks per pair across 89 pair/years. Intriguingly, nest usurpation by African White-backed Vultures and the influence of elephants and fire on nest trees create a complex habitat dynamic. Comparing data from 1982-1994 to 2008-2015 indicates a southward shift of approximately 1.1 degrees, emphasizing the species’ adaptability.

Is southern Europe environmentally favourable for the long-term establishment of Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii)?

Sandro López-Ramírez

Climate-induced range shifts are reshaping bird communities in southern Europe and northern Africa. As climate change facilitates the northward expansion of African species, unprecedented interactions and colonization occur. The critically endangered Rüppell’s Vulture, a sub-Saharan species, exhibits growing sightings in southern Europe. However, detailed climatic modelling suggests unsuitability for breeding, with future conditions exacerbating this. Instead, the influx of vagrant individuals is likely influenced by the migratory behaviour of Griffon Vultures. This highlights the nuanced impact of climate change on species interactions and underscores the importance of considering ecological nuances in the face of evolving climates.

Spatio-temporal movements and home range of Rüppell Vultures in Europe

Michelle Marcano-Delgado

Rüppell’s Vulture, critically endangered and native to Africa, has witnessed severe declines, notably in West Africa. Recent sightings in the Mediterranean hint at its establishment in Europe. Tracking three individuals, including mating behaviour and fidelity to breeding colonies, offers vital insights. Adults exhibit local fidelity, while immatures show expansive movements. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for grasping the species’ ecological foothold in Europe, marking a significant stride in conservation efforts. The study sheds light on the intricate interplay between Rüppell’s and Griffon Vultures, underscoring the need for continued research and conservation strategies in safeguarding this African species in its newfound European habitat.

Multi-source data for dealing with conflicts between livestock farmers and vultures: preliminary results from the project LIFE Aegypius Return

Fátima Domínguez Gigante

In Europe, a concerning conflict has emerged between Griffon Vultures and livestock farmers since the late 1990s. The dispute revolves around allegations of vultures attacking and killing livestock. This study, part of the LIFE ‘Aegypius Return’ project, analyses data from farmers’ perceptions, complaints, and news reports. Insufficient scientific evidence hampers conflict understanding.

Sala García Matos

GPS tracking data relates vulture mortality due to acute intoxication at a considerable distance from the site of poisoned bait consumption

Hristo Peshev

Despite vultures rarely being targets, intentional poisoning severely impacts their populations. The study, tracking Griffon and Cinereous Vultures, unveils the hidden toll of poison baits. Vultures, unwittingly consuming toxins, travel long distances before succumbing, complicating crime investigations. High-resolution GPS data emerges as a crucial tool, providing real-time analysis to swiftly locate poison baits. Previous studies, relying on traditional methods, may have underestimated poisoning rates. This underscores the pivotal role of advanced transmitters in not just understanding but actively preventing and mitigating the pervasive threat of poisoning incidents in vulture and bird species.

Antipoisoning activities in Bulgaria to enforce vultures conservation in the country

Stoycho Stoychev

In a landmark initiative, Bulgaria introduced its first anti-poisoning dog unit in 2016, operating until December 2020. Focused on vulture conservation, the unit conducted 153 patrols, uncovering 40 illegally poisoned animals, 17.5% being unintentional vulture victims. The study identified human-predator conflicts as the main cause, with wolves and domestic dogs as common victims. Carbofuran and Methomyl emerged as prevalent poisons. Alongside, a National Action Plan against wildlife poisoning gained endorsement in 2021, showcasing collaborative efforts with authorities and NGOs. A burgeoning local stakeholder network, involving 55 members, further strengthens Bulgaria’s resolve against wildlife poisoning.

Soaring through the central Apennines. Where (not) to go

Hanna Oosterhoff

In the central Apennines, Griffon Vultures face a significant threat—collisions with wind turbines, constituting 20% of mortalities. A comprehensive study, analysing GPS data from 53 individuals over two years, reveals the vultures’ spatial preferences and the heightened risk near wind farms. The research underscores seasonal variations, with vultures favouring south-facing slopes at higher elevations and exhibiting proximity to turbines. Notably, collision rates peak in winter, though vulture avoidance strategies during warmer months suggest a nuanced interaction. The findings emphasise the need for targeted conservation measures to safeguard Griffon Vultures and anticipate potential impacts as wind farms expand.

Vulture Research Consortium (VRC)

Anne K. Scharf

The Vulture Research Consortium (VRC) spearheads collaborative global research, uniting vulture researchers through projects like Drylands. With 30 partners contributing GPS tracking data, insights into vulture movement patterns in relation to dryland indicators, including water availability, emerge. This initiative addresses spatial knowledge gaps, guiding future bio-logging efforts for large scavenging birds.

The Drylands project

Martina Scacco

In the face of expanding drylands, vultures emerge as ecological sentinels. A global study, involving 1600 birds from 16 vulture species, reveals their movement intricacies in response to changing landscapes. Tracked from 2006 to 2023, the data, part of the Drylands project, unveils vultures’ dependence on herbivore herds and the impact of diminishing water sources. As large mammal mortality due to thirst rises, vultures, positioned atop the trophic pyramid, become vital indicators. This research sets the stage for using vultures’ movement patterns as a proactive tool for early detection of environmental shifts on a global scale.

Tagging vultures in Zambia – movement dynamics in extensive wilderness areas

Tom Riffel

In the expansive wildlife territories of Zambia, a critical study on vultures reveals alarming population declines, with key species decreasing by 50% every decade. Tracking 29 vultures across three species using satellite and GSM telemetry, the research provides essential insights into their movements, home ranges, and breeding zones. This data is pivotal for long-term vulture conservation in Zambia, emphasizing the urgency of targeted efforts to protect these vital scavengers within the country’s extensive national parks and game management areas.

Long distance movements in a social obligate scavenger: exploring the role of age, sex and season

Irene Breda

Exploring the elusive long-distance movements (LDMs) of Griffon Vultures in the central-southern Apennines, this study tracked 64 GPS-tagged birds over 44,746 telemetry days from 2016 to 2022. Unveiling 49 LDMs, averaging 451km, peaking during incubation and early parental care in March and June, revealed seasonal and age-dependent patterns. LDMs were frequent among immature birds, hinting at gene flow between colonies, while mature vultures, possibly tied to parental duties, showed lower engagement. Despite the intriguing behaviour, these LDMs weren’t indicative of migration but portrayed nomadic tendencies along the Apennines ridge.

Magnitude and trends of vultures passage through the Strait of Gibraltar

Alejandro Onrubia

 he Strait of Gibraltar, a vital corridor for migratory soaring birds, unveils insights into avian dynamics. Over two decades, a meticulous postnuptial migration monitoring program documented seven vulture species, including the Griffon Vulture and Egyptian Vulture in substantial numbers. The robust census data spanning 25 years indicates a positive trajectory, signaling the resurgence of Western European vulture breeding populations and a notable rise in African vulture species. This enduring effort not only sheds light on the diverse vulture movements but also underlines the importance of continued monitoring to assess the impact of human activities on these majestic fliers.

Photos by © Hansruedi Weyrich

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