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January was a busy month for wild Bearded Vultures in the 2018/19 breeding season

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One of the Bearded Vulture pair at Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park returns to their nest

The 2018/19 breeding season for Bearded Vultures got off to an early start back on 10 December 2018. Since then we’ve been getting reports of breeding pairs to the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM), the database that monitors the population of the species across the region. So far, 20 pairs are reported to be breeding and incubating clutches across 25 territories.

Latest reports of breeding

There are an estimated 230 breeding pairs across Europe, and 51 pairs across the reintroduced population in the Alps. The reports to the IBM database focus on the Alpine breeding population. Following the early breeding by an Italian pair of Bearded Vultures there were several more reported laying of clutches toward the end of December, another in Italy, two in France and one in Switzerland . However, the majority of the 20 reports to the IBM database happened across January, eight in France, three in Italy, one in Austria and three in Switzerland.

Italian Bearded Vultures

The Italian Bearded Vultures currently hold the title of first breeders of the 2018/19 breeding season. Three pairs resident in the Gran Paradiso National Park, of Italy’s 15 breeding pairs of Bearded Vultures, are all currently breeding and incubating clutches. This was confirmed with this remarkable photo taken on a webcam observing a nest in the Park.

The breeding pair of Bearded Vultures incubating their clutch in Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park

The pair’s egg can be seen just in shot as one of the pair stands to stretch their wings. Like other authorities across the Alps, the Gran Paradiso National Park have put in place tight restrictions of activity such as rock climbing around the nest.

This pair join other breeding pairs across the Bearded Vulture range from the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps, the Pyrenees and the Andalusian Sierras.

Bearded Vulture Breeding Season 

Bearded Vulture breeding trio from Bargy in the French Alps
Bearded Vulture breeding trio from Bargy in the French Alps

Bearded Vultures are the earliest breeders of the four European species of vultures, timing the raising of their young to coincide with the early Spring when there is potentially a rich supply of food (due to the complications of births and harsh conditions that cause fatalities among the mountain herbivores, and the exposure of dead animals frozen in the thawing snow). Breeding behaviour and pair bonding rituals, such as nest building and mutual preening, has been observed this year by colleagues from the Alps to the Sierras in Andalucia and the Pyrenees from the end of October.

You can follow and share the latest observations by following #BeardedVultureBreedingSeason on Twitter and Facebook

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