On the 5th of December, between 11:15 and 11:30 h, one of the bearded vulture breeding pairs from the Richard Faust Breeding Center (Haringsee, Austria, one of the specialized bearded vulture captive breeding stations) , has laid the first clutch of this new breeding season. On the same day, about 1 hour earlier, a female in the Guadalentín captive breeding center (Andalusia, Spain) has also laid an egg.
The egg in Austria was laid by an experience breeding pair, BG108 x BG175. The female, BG175, born in 1992, was the first hatchling of the old breeding pair from Tierpark Friedrichsfelde zoo in Berlin. She hatched from the second egg of a double clutch. Unfortunately, the chick from the first egg died during hatching. It took 10 years before she started to reproduce. Since them 28 eggs had been laid by BG175. From them 20 hatched and 18 fledged (half of the resulting chicks have been released in our reintroduction projects).
When a female starts to breed, laying date is usually later than the average, but by about the fifth breeding season the date of arrival of the first egg stabilizes (an average difference of around 30 days with the first laying dates). Then egg laying becomes more predictable – experienced breeding females only vary around ±6 days to the previous years.
In the case of the Andalusian pair, the male was sent in 2014 from Vallcalent captive breeding center (Catalonia, Spain). It’s an experienced breeding male. The female, a very dominant bird, had injured several times her first male. In the following breeding season they started to breed with success (2 chicks). Their first egg was laid on the 24th January 2015. Last season she laid the 1st egg on the 8th of December 2015, 1 and 1/2 months earlier, showing that the pair harmonize very, very well. Now on the 5th of December.
Bearded vultures are one of the earliest breeders in Europe – their timing perfectly adapted to have chicks in early spring, when many of the mountain herbivores on which they feed (when they die) have their first births – and birth complications!
Bearded vultures repair or build their nests in November-December, and lay their eggs in December-January, incubating them through the coldest winter months. This happens both in captivity and in the wild.
The bearded vulture EEP is an international captive breeding program which started in 1978 to provide birds for the alpine reintroduction project. Currently it is supplying birds to our 4 ongoing reintroduction projects (Alps, Grands Causses -included in the LIFE GypConnect framework-, Andalusia and Corsica), and the program is managed by the Vulture Conservation Foundation. It includes 5 dedicated captive breeding centers, and has also birds distributed among 35 zoos and animal parks.