Last January we were very happy to announce that a second bearded vulture territorial pair had laid an egg in Andalusia, and later we also informed that the two pairs hatched successfully young bearded vultures. It is great to be able to inform you that so far all is going well with these two pairs breeding in the wild in Andalucía – this is a remarkable success, and follows on from the first breeding in the wild in 2015. The first pair to be established raised a chick in their first breeding attempt two years ago, but then took a year off last year, to start nesting again this year – and they were joined by a second pair!
These two pairs have been closely monitored by our Spanish bearded vulture enthusiast Dr. Francisco J. Montoro – veterinarian and naturalist, and by Prof. Dr. Abilio Reig-Ferrer – from the Research Group of Zoology of Vertebrates of the University of Alicante, and they have recently published in the Spanish magazine Quercus an article with details of their exhaustive monitoring.
In 2015, we saw the first breeding success in the wild after extinction there +30 years ago. The first pair to be formed in the wild, formed by the male Tono, born and released in 2006 (the first year of releases), and Blimunda from 2010, produced two years ago a clutch from which a chick hatched on the 7th of April 2015, and fledged on the 2nd of August. The young bearded vulture, a female, was baptized as “Esperanza” (Hope). This occurred after nine years releasing bearded vulture nestlings coming from the European Endangered species program EEP, managed by the VCF.
In the same year, a second young pair could be observed rebuilding a nest in the same area. But it was necessary to wait until 2017 for them to start breeding. The pair formed by Hortelano a male from 2010, and Marchena from 2012, laid their first egg around the 22nd of January. On the 16th March this year the chick hatched and in the same afternoon it was successfully fed by his parents.
The whole breeding season has been closely monitored by Francisco J. Montoro from a safe observation post 1000m away. Most relevant is that Hortelano and Marchena, both born in captivity in the Andalusian captive breeding centre in Guadalentín, with no connection with their conspecifics that formerly inhabited the mountains, have chosen to nest on a site that was occupied by the same species more than half a century ago! The very last occupant of that nest had been shot and killed in the 1950s.
Although Tono and Blimunda didn’t reproduce in 2016, this year they produced a clutch 5 days earlier than the younger pair, from which a chick hatched in the morning of the 10th of March.
These results are a great milestone for the bearded vulture reintroduction project in Andalusia, led by the Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucía and the local Fundatión Gypaetus. The project started officially in 1996 with the creation of a captive breeding center in the core of the Natural Park, and since 2006, 45 birds have been released (including one already this year).
Not all is positive though, as some threats continue to be present, and last year 3 birds were found poisoned in the area, in spite all the efforts by the regional government. These were the first poisoning incidents recorded in the last 5 years, and led the Junta de Andalucía to review and refocus their strategy to fight against this threat .
Photos: Dr. Francisco J. Montoro