As part of its programme to restore the bearded vulture across Europe, the VCF and its partners have been very busy releasing young bearded vultures, hatched in captivity within the bearded vulture captive breeding network coordinated by the VCF, in several sites across four mountain ranges – Alps, Massif Central, Corsica and Andalusia.
Following releases in Corsica (see here), in Andalusia (see here), in the Massif central (see here) and in the Alps (see here), tomorrow two more birds will be released in a new site – this time in the Baronnies, in the extreme western pre-Alps, a crucial stepping point between the Massif Central and the alpine chain.
The birds will be presented to the public in a ceremony at the commune de VillePerdrix (see invitation) by Vautours en Baronnies, our local partner managing this new release site, and will then be taken to the platform high up in the mountains, where they will stay until they fledge naturally.
The birds to be released come from Andalusia and Austria. The female hatched in the Guadalentín specialised bearded vulture captive breeding center managed by the Junta de Andalucía, and is the second chick of a double clutch. Its father was the first ever chick hatched at Guadalentín in 2002. In 2013 the adult breeding pair started to give problems – the female started to react aggressively towards the male and the incubation was not successful. In 2015 it was decided to transfer this pair into an aviary with visual contact with other breeding pairs – immediately the female redirected her aggression against the neighbour pairs and the pair bred successfully again. The other chick from the pair has been released a few days ago in the Swiss Alps.
The male comes from the Richard Faust bearded vulture captive breeding center in Austria, co-managed by the VCF. Is the second chick from the oldest pair in this center, and currently the best reproductive breeding pair inside the EEP: since 1989 this pair hatched 37 hatchlings, of which 34 chicks survived, and 28 have been released. The older brother of this bird has also been released this year, in Andalusia. Being part of a double clutch, both chicks have hatched in the incubator and reared by a foster pair.
Baronnies is an important stepping stone between the Alps and the Pyrenees, and therefore will serve as the perfect corridor population for a pan European future gene flow. Griffon and black vulture populations have been restored there, so Vautours en Baronnies has now a solid track record and experience on vulture restoration projects. Further, some bearded vultures often use the area for prolonged periods of time – mostly come from the nearby Vercors. The current bearded vulture release is the first in the site, and happens within the framework of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project, an EU funded project that aims to enhance the establishment of the gene flow between the bearded vultures is the Alps and the Pyrenees. The LIFE GYPCONNECT is also co-funded by the MAVA foundation.
Bearded vultures take 9 or 10 years to start breeding, so we will have to wait a few more years for the next milestone in the project – the first nest in the wild at this site. In the meantime, the VCF, Vautours en Baronnies and other partners will continue to work together to re-establish this crucial population in the pre-Alps, within the LIFE GYPCONNECT project.