The Egyptian vulture is a partially migratory species across its vast global range, with vultures from Eurasia wintering in Africa, in a belt from Mali though Sudan to Ethiopia. Previous research has indicated that Egyptian vultures from the Iberian Peninsula winter mostly in an area comprising Mali-Burkina Faso-Chad. They normally leave in September and arrive back to the peninsula in March. However, in the last few years, the VCF and the Junta de Extremadura (GOBEX) have found and monitored an overwintering population in Extremadura (Spain) that totals over 100 birds. Little is known about the origin of these birds, so the VCF and GOBEX started a project last year to try to find out more.
Last winter (February 2015) two Egyptian Vultures were captured and tagged – Fresnedosa and Jara, both females. Jara (an adult bird) bred in Extremadura in a site 60Km away from the wintering/capturing site, and then decided to migrate last September to Africa – in itself an interesting fact, as this bird overwintered one year in Iberia and migrated the other – only to disappear, probably killed, in central Morocco. Fresnedosa (an immature) has been making only short moments (20km) around the area where it was captured in early 2015, including several excursions to nearby Portugal.
Late last year (December 2015) the VCF-GOBEX team tagged 4 more Egyptian vultures, and the blood analysis revealed they were all female! The four tagged birds were baptized Niebla, Lluvia, Primavera and Macedonia, and have been spending most of the time in the wintering area, making short trips of 2-3 days to areas rich in food like Monfrague National Park and Tajo Internacional, about 40-50km away.
Two weeks ago, just before the arrival of the migratory population, another capturing attempt was made, and this time only one bird was captured, an adult bird (4 years old), named Espiga (see photo). This bird was also tagged and blood samples were taken – it would be curious if it was also a female!
The project is implemented by GOBEX and the VCF. Extremadura has about 175 breeding pairs of Egyptian Vultures, mostly in the northern part of the region, representing 10% of the total Spanish population, which in itself is the biggest in Europe.
Egyptian vultures are now globally endangered, and are declining fast across vast areas of their range, including in many regions in Spain. We hope that this study will help us understand more about its population dynamics, threat factors, including mortality causes, and thus help in their conservation.
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