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Dutch birders get Lucky! Bearded vulture released in Austria last year delights birdwatchers across the Netherlands

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On the 17th of May, a young bearded vulture left the Alps and went north. The bird, named Lucky, was born last year in Tierpark Berlin, within the bearded vulture captive breeding network coordinated by the VCF for reintroduction projects, and was released in 2016 in the National Park Hohe Tauern in Austria. He was fitted with a GPS-receiver, so we are able to follow his moves.

Lucky flew north until the 20th of May, when he decided to turn around, just north of Kassel (Germany). 2 days later, he turned north again and spent some time in Western Germany, not far from the Belgian border. On the 25th he took off and started to fly in a northwest direction, passing through Belgium, into the Netherlands. At 17.45 on the 25th May he was finally seen near Rotterdam, the Netherlands by some birdwatchers.

Lucky was spotted for the first time – or at least reported for the first time – after travelling for almost 1500 kilometer outside the Alpine mountain-range. Although bearded vultures are really big birds, they can be difficult to find! Even in the Netherlands, which has the highest “observer-density” in Europe, Lucky remained elusive! Although he was seen every day, he was difficult to follow. For instance, he passed straight over the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam without being reported by any of the 100.000’s of people living there.

Lucky then went north towards the Waddensea-island of Texel, where he was observed by lots of birders and tourists. Off course, he made headlines in the local newspapers there. He was observed eating a roadkill hare (while being watched by a Lucky photographer) and discovered the northernmost tip of the island, before disappearing again. The GPS-receiver revealed that he spent the night on a very busy holiday park (unseen again). On the 29th May he left the island of Texel again and went south. Yesterday he was still in the Netherlands.

These travels are normal behavior to bearded vultures. In their 2nd and 3rd calendar-year they can travel over great distances and some birds leave the mountainous regions to go into the flatlands. Their genetic composition, archaeological finds and (ancient) observations show this behavior has always occurred. But, as Lucky proves again, probably quite some bearded vultures have passed unnoticed!

In the meantime: Lucky looks just fine. His wings and feathers are undamaged and he had some food. Hopefully he will be able to find his way back to the Alps.

The Vulture Conservation Foundation would like to thank Dutch Birding, Waarneming.nl and the Dutch birders for keeping us informed on Lucky!

Photos: Stephan Gomes

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