It is that time of the year again when Bearded Vulture chicks are hatching across different facilities in Europe. The Andalusian Bearded Vulture captive breeding centre of Guadalentín (CCG), managed by us at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) on behalf of the Junta de Andalucía, is one of the several facilities that recently welcomed a chick within the 2021/2022 breeding season!
CCG holds the worldwide record for most Bearded Vulture chicks hatched in a facility within a single breeding season. This time around, the centre has broken yet another record – an all-time high number of Bearded Vulture eggs produced in a single season, with eight breeding pairs laying 16 eggs.
A Bearded Vulture pair with a productive background
The parents of the newly hatched chick BG1132 are Lázaro and Nava. Both hatched within the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network, coordinated by the VCF on behalf of EAZA’s EEP (Bearded Vulture EEP), which breeds the species for conservation purposes. Lázaro is a male who hatched at Hannover Zoo in 2000 and arrived shortly after at Guadalentín for natural rearing. Nava is a female who hatched at the Richard Faust Bearded Vulture Specialised Captive Breeding Centre in Austria (RFZ) and arrived at Guadalentín in 2007. They became a pair in 2011, and since then, Lázaro and Nava hatched seven chicks, including the latest addition.
The 2021/22 breeding season of Lázaro and Nava
Bearded Vultures perform several parental duties for many months during their breeding season – Lázaro and Nava are no different. Just like every year, they began mating in autumn. During that time, the staff at Guadalentín provided the proper materials to the pair and observed them around the clock, witnessing them play with nesting materials such as sticks and wool, construct their nest, engage in mutual preening and start copulating.
This year, Nava had a double-clutch. She laid the first egg on 20 December 2021 and the second a few days later on the 26th. Shortly after laying, the staff had to remove both eggs because the female was not incubating correctly, which risked the chances of successful hatching. For this reason, the staff artificially incubated the clutch from the beginning. And it seems their hard work paid off!
The first chick hatches at Guadalentín
After nearly two months of artificial incubation, the Bearded Vulture chick BG1132 hatched at the Andalusian centre on 15 February 2022 in a natural way, meaning it did not need the staff’s help to hatch. It weighed 154.9g. It received the nickname “Girón” after Susana Girón, a photojournalist who was at the centre during its birth. The other chicks that will hatch this season at the centre will receive nicknames following the same theme, photojournalists committed to the environment.
Human keepers and Bearded Vulture raise “Girón”
“Girón” remained in the laboratory, under the care and attention of the Guadalentín staff, for nine days after hatching. In this way, human keepers carefully hand-rear the chick until it is strong enough to maintain its head up and can chirp loudly, allowing it to better withstand low temperatures when the adoption by the foster parent takes place. The staff then proceeded with the adoption using Keno, an experienced female who rears chicks alone. The adoption was perfect. Keno immediately accepted “Girón” and already started feeding the chick within a few hours.
This Bearded Vulture chick is now part of important efforts working to reintroduce and restock the species population across different regions in Europe! We hope we will welcome many more healthy chicks like “Girón” this breeding season.