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After exploring the Balkans for over two months, the ‘Italian’ Egyptian Vulture reached Hungary and Austria!

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Diego keeps on wandering! After Diego returned to his spring-summer residence in Murge, Italy, the Egyptian Vulture crossed the sea reaching the Balkans. After exploring the region for over two months, he has moved on to Austria and Hungary! 

Diego’s background 

Diego hatched in captivity at Associazione CERM Centro Rapaci Minacciati back in 2018. A year later, CERM and ISPRA freed Diego in the Murgia Materana Regional Park with the delayed-release method as part of the LIFE Egyptian Vulture project. Ahead of his release, the project team equipped Diego with a GPS tag, provided by us at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), allowing us to keep a close eye on his daily progress. Based on his movements and behaviour over the past couple of years, it appears that Diego chose southwestern Sicily as his wintering grounds, avoiding the long migration to a sub-Saharan wintering area. In spring, the vulture has been returning to his release site, the Murge area. 

Diego explores the Balkans

For the first time, after more than 32 captive-bred Egyptian Vultures have been liberated in the Italian wild, an Egyptian Vulture crossed the Adriatic Sea. On the morning of 26 April 2021, Diego, who returned from Sicily on 2 April, made a stop near Matera, and then resumed moving, heading eastward. Once he arrived in Monopoli on the Apulian coast, he reached an altitude of 1.800 meters and flew the Adriatic in a 190 km stretch of sea. After three and a half hours of flight, at an average speed of 87 km/h, he reached the coast of the former Yugoslavia and headed north the following day, reaching Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s very likely that the young vulture followed the many raptors who, in that stretch, cross the Adriatic to reach Eastern Europe, especially Pallid harriers and Honey buzzards. Ever since he arrived in the Balkan Peninsula, he has been widely exploring the region, visiting 12 countries and covering 12,500 km! 

Diego reaches Hungary and Austria

Diego keeps on wandering! In July, Diego left the Balkans after 78 days, heading north. During his ongoing travels, the vulture arrived in Trieste but after reaching 600 meters from the Italian border, he changed his route and after taking a wide tour of Slovenia he proceeded northward following the Austrian-Hungary border. Along his travels, ornithologists have tried to observe Diego in the field to verify his state of health. On Sunday 11 July, ornithologist Szabolcs Gál photographed Diego in Vas province, Hungary, showing that Diego is in great shape. It also seems that Diego has been bathing in muddy waters as he started to wear a bright orange colour in his plumage.

We are looking forward to seeing where Diego travels next! Stay tuned by following the VCF on Facebook and Twitter

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