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Egyptian vultures eluded us at the Douro

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Last week a team from the VCF, Junta de Castilla y Leon, Fundación de Patrimonio Natural, SPEA, ATN and Palombar (all partners in the LIFE RUPIS project) spent several days in the field at the Natural Park Arribes del Duero (Spain, just across the border from Portugal) trying to capture adult Egyptian Vultures. This action was part of the Rupis Life project, which aims to enhance the populations of Egyptian Vulture and Bonelli’s eagle in the Douro Canyon (Portugal and Spain). The idea is to equip some adult Egyptian vultures with satellite tags, so we can obtain information on their foraging movements in the breeding area and also identify possible threats or dangerous spots. Also, blood samples will be taken from all captured individuals to check their health condition and possible intoxication by heavy metals, pesticides or veterinary drugs. The Douro Canyon has more than 90 pairs of Egyptian Vulture.

The capturing sessions, done with the assistance from one expert from the Spanish Ministry of Environment and Agriculture (MAGRAMA), required large doses of patience, as they include waiting long hours inside a hide to see if birds come to previously baited areas where special trap nets were carefully installed. Adult Egyptian vultures were present most days and could be observed many times.  One local pair was obviously occupied with other things  (see photo), and the vultures in general avoided the food provided.  Capturing adult Egyptian vultures is notoriously difficult, but this first attempt allowed us to learn, so that next time we may have some chances.

Now the breeding season is starting, so we will avoid capturing birds at this critical period – but we will try again after the young ones have fledged from the nest.

Photos: VCF

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