Hundreds of thousands of birds pass through Turkey during migration seasons. Turkey holds a globally important position for raptor migration due to its geographical location, especially for migratory soaring birds flying in Africa-Europe and Africa-Asia directions. The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus in Latin or Küçük Akbaba in Turkish) is considered globally Endangered, and determining its population in Turkey is extremely important for conservation efforts.
To monitor the numbers of migratory raptors more accurately, a study determined 13 points used intensely by birds during the autumn migration season in Southern Turkey. Among these locations, only three were selected due to the limited number of volunteers and to prevent the same birds from being counted more than once. The chosen points are located in the Sarimazi and Selimiye regions in Ceyhan, Adana.
A recently published report led by Doga/ BirdLife Turkey within the scope of the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project reveals the population of migratory soaring birds and Egyptian Vultures while also revealing the threats they face during migration in Turkey.
So far, counts were carried out in 2014, 2018, and 2019. As of 2018, these counts will take place every year to determine the population trends of the species passing through this bottleneck. The 2019 Sarimazi Raptor Migration Count was conducted between August 30th – September 30th with 24 experts and volunteers in the previously determined three points (Antenna, Water Tank and Almond Orchard). The counts were carried out every day between 09.00 and 17.00 and the observers from the three different locations were in frequent communication with each other to prevent the same birds from being counted more than once.
The raptor migration count in Sarimazi counted a total of 106,731 raptors in 2018 and 118,124 in 2019. Of those, there were 813 observations of Egyptian Vulture individuals in 2018 and 903 in 2019. In 2018, the date in which most individuals were observed was 16 September with 144 individuals, and in 2019 on 10 September with 80 individuals. While the numbers fluctuated in 2018, in 2019 the Egyptian Vulture counts were closer to each other, especially after the second week of September. Furthermore, in 2019 more Egyptian Vultures were counted in the first week of the count, compared to 2018, suggesting that the migration started earlier in 2019
The study determined electrocution and collisions with hazardous power lines as one of the most important threats migratory birds face along their migration in Turkey. This data will enable conservationists to carry out more targeted actions to mitigate the threats raptors face.
Egyptian Vulture population in Turkey
The Egyptian Vulture is a globally Endangered raptor species, with widespread population declines recorded across its range, particularly in Eastern Europe. Turkey has one of the largest populations in the Western Palearctic Region, with an estimated 1000 breeding pairs, and is an important pathway for migratory birds. As shown in the cross-continental study on Egyptian Vulture migration, many of the 46 breeding pairs of Egyptian Vultures recorded in Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and North Macedonia during the 2019 monitoring season might have passed close to Sarimazi as they circumnavigated the Mediterranean Sea.
Egyptian Vulture New LIFE
Working collaboratively projects like the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE aims to reinforce the Egyptian vulture population in their Europe’s easternmost range across the Balkans. By actively managing and restocking the population by releasing captive-bred birds the project will support the small Balkan population which number between 60 and 80 pairs across the whole region. The project is working to deliver conservation measures that eliminate major known threats such as illegal poisoning and electrocution in their summer breeding grounds. Monitoring the population closely using GPS transmitters will also help the project tackle the major threats Egyptian vultures face. The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE is a partnership of organisations, led by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds from 14 countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to protect Egyptian vultures not only in Europe but all along their migratory flyway.