At least 18 young griffon vultures died in a major fire that affected last week the Portas do Rodão, a large griffon colony near Vila Velha de Rodão, in central Portugal.
Last week´s overrun the northern part of the large cliffs on the Tejo river, burning valuable old forests of juniper trees, and affected at least 19 pairs of griffons – only 14 young were counted after the fire, mostly on the southern crest, least affected by the fire. The fire also probably affected one pair of Egyptian vultures, two pairs of black storks, and several pairs of eagle owl. Portugal has a history of large, frequent and intense forest fires, due to a combination of negligence, high prevalence of arson, and a much-modified forest cover (dominated by eucalyptus and pines that favour the spread of fire). There are about 750 breeding pairs of griffon vultures in Portugal (Vulture multi-Species Action Plan data), mostly along the border with Spain. The species has increased their population in the last few decades, although they probably stabilised in the last few years – a new breeding census will take place in the next couple of years, as part of the new Portuguese breeding bird atlas.