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Possible observation of Bearded Vulture “Vigo” in France

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Possible observation of “Vigo” in France © Bastien Merlanchon

It has been two weeks since we last heard about the whereabouts of Bearded Vulture “Vigo” that has been touring the UK for the past few months. After receiving no information for a while, not knowing if “Vigo” crossed the English Channel successfully, there is now some hope that the bird did indeed reach France!

Possible observation of “Vigo”

After “Vigo” left the north of England, he was observed at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy Bedfordshire on 12th October, then south of London in Kent on the 13th, and the East Sussex coast on 14th and 15th. The latest observation of the Bearded Vulture in the UK was in the Beachy Head area of East Sussex on 15th October when the bird was seen flying out to sea around 14:00. Since then, we have been hoping that our local partners will send us an observation of “Vigo” in France. Then, the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM) recently received photos from two observations of a Bearded Vulture in France. On the 21st October we received an observation from the Allier Departement, around 200 km south of Paris. Then again, on Monday, 26th October 2020, a Bearded Vulture was photographed near Lyon. The photos sent by the observers were compared with the last photos from the UK.  Unfortunately, the photos do not allow the team to examine the special features of the plumage to confirm with certainty that the bird is indeed “Vigo”, so it should be considered a “probable” sighting. We hope to be able to soon have full confirmation of this with more observations reported to the local monitoring partners and us. If you observe a Bearded Vulture in the Alps, please report your observations here.

A recap on the incredible story of Bearded Vulture “Vigo”

Bearded Vulture “Vigo” in flight © Will Bowell

A bone-eating Bearded Vulture, one of Europe’s rarest and largest raptors, left its mountain range and visited unusual corners of Europe in the summer, causing quite a frenzy. At first, it visited the Netherlands and Belgium and then made its way to the UK, when it was first photographed by Lucy Burrell in Kenilworth, England, on 25 June 2020, marking the second observation of the species in the UK in recent years! A lot of questions followed and the VCF addressed the key ones, including why did the Bearded Vulture come to the UK and where did it come from? With the help of local observers and organizations, we have been keeping a close eye on the bird to monitor its progress in the UK in case there was a need for intervention, however, there was no need in the end. 

As the Bearded Vulture was not marked in any way, the only way to learn whether it came from the Alps or the Pyrenees was through genetic analysis of a blood sample or feathers. Thanks to two small feathers collected in the Peak District by local Yorkshire birder David Ball, we determined that “Vigo” comes from the French Alps, and is a female bird that hatched in the wild last year (2019). Revealing the origin and identity of the bird was possible because of the extensive genetic data gathered as part of the comprehensive monitoring done by local organizations in the Alps like Asters, Conservatoire d’espaces naturels de Haute-Savoie within the Bearded Vulture reintroduction project, and that includes collecting feathers at the base of used nests, an initiative coordinated by Stiftung Pro Bartgeier and the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF). 

The full results identifying the exact individual and discussing its background will be published in a peer-reviewed article in the British Birds journal submitted by the VCF and the Stiftung Pro Bartgeier that is currently in review. 

To stay tuned with Europe’s vulture species, make sure you follow the VCF on Facebook and Twitter!

International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM)

The International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM) is a unique international collaboration led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation between national & natural parks and non-governmental organisations to coordinate the monitoring activities for European Bearded Vulture populations. Through this network, data about the Bearded Vulture in Europe is collected, shared and made available to everyone working for the conservation of the species. The IBM-network also uses this data and comes together to discuss conservation strategies and priorities for this species on an international level. There are currently 16 partners and two associated organisations part of the IBM-network.

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