Egyptian vulture tagged in Eastern Turkey overwinters in Kenya

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In the summer of 2014, researchers from the University of Utah and Kuzey Doga captured four Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) in Eastern Turkey, and fitted them with small GPS units to track their movements (see news links here and here), in a project supported by the VCF. The Egyptian vultures were tagged in an attempt to study the feeding areas, nesting sites, migration routes, and wintering grounds of this endangered species. We are happy to report now that all four birds have completed their arduous autumn migrations and are now overwintering in East Africa.

One sub-adult bird—Tekelti—has surprised us by traveling 1000km further south than its peers. It is now overwintering in Kenya, over 4,300km from where it was captured this summer. In the last six months, it has visited Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

The other three birds—Kars, an adult, a juvenile called Memba, and an adult named Serhat—are now overwintering in Ethiopia, after following similar migration routes over the Arabian Peninsula and across the Bab al Mandeb Straight into the Horn of Africa. It is interesting to note the high level of synchronism in migration routes and overwintering territories.

Evan Buechley, the researcher from the University of Utah that has captured the vultures in the arid steppe of Eastern Turkey, is just back from a trip to Ethiopia, where he was working to survey the populations of Egyptian vultures there and to determine important feeding sites (see photos). He found good concentrations in the deserts of the Afar Triangle in Northeastern Ethiopia. While the species seems to be faring well both in Ethiopia and Eastern Turkey, elsewhere it is declining, and its global population continues to go down. Through his research, Evan Buechley and the VCF hope to identify threats to this important population during all life cycles. 

This project is the first ever to tag the species in Turkey, and is a joint effort between the University of Utah, Kuzey Doga, VCF, and the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs. Additional support comes from the US National Science Foundation and North Star Science and Technology. Thanks also to the Ethiopia Wildlife and Natural History Society and the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority.

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