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  • Frustration – and then hope – with the only black vulture pair in Douro International

Frustration – and then hope – with the only black vulture pair in Douro International

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The single pair of black vulture that established itself in the Douro International in 2012 – in an extraordinary recolonization event, the furthest away from known colonies ever recorded – 97km from the nearest black vulture colony, is occupying a new nest in the Douro Canyon, for the fourth year in a row, but there was drama and frustration early on!

The pair built for the first time a nest in 2012, and laid eggs in 2013, but that year the breeding failed. However, since 2014 the pair has been raising successfully one chick.

Earlier in the season staff from the Junta de Castilla y León and from the ICNF (the Portuguese statutory conservation organisation) had discovered that the nest used by this pair in the last few years atop a Juniperus tree in a steep cliff on the Portuguese side of the Douro International canyon, had been occupied by a griffon (see photo)! However, a few weeks later it was discovered that the black vulture reoccupied an old nest in another Juniperus nearby (see photo) – we are now hoping it will lay an egg and will continue its successful breeding series!

The pair nests within the LIFE RUPIS project area, and several actions of this project are also targeting this species.

Black vultures became extinct as breeding species in Portugal in the 1970s, mostly due to the use of poisoned carcasses targeting unwanted predators. An increasing population in Spain saw the species first return to breed in central Portugal (Tejo Internacional) in 2010 (where now there is a small colony of about 10 pairs), and then in north-eastern Portugal. Now they are also breeding in southern Portugal.

The species is regularly seen in Douro, with up to 5-6 individuals often seen together. We do hope that with the LIFE RUPIS project, we are creating the conditions for them to stay, and eventually for other pairs to establish themselves! 

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