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Rescuing a young Griffon Vulture and live streaming a pair’s breeding behaviour in the Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria

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We are thrilled to share some exciting news for Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria. The LIFE RE-Vultures project team recently saved a young Griffon Vulture’s life and installed a nest camera to observe and broadcast a pair’s behaviour. 

Rescue, rehabilitation and release of Carlson

A few days before Christmas, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) team received an alert of a Griffon Vulture perched on the roof of a house in Krumovgrad, indicating a bad sign for the bird. The next day, the vulture managed to take off, and a day later the same vulture resurfaced, this time on the roof of a house in the village of Kovil, only 5 km from its previous location. Before the team could reach the site, the vulture flew again in an unknown direction.

Two days later on 23 December, the “Christmas Miracle” happened when their colleague Atanas Delchev received a call from an acquaintance who noticed a Griffon Vulture perched on the road not far from Haskovo. Luckily, Atanas was less than 5 minutes away and responded immediately, catching the inexperienced bird quickly before a fatal accident occurred. He then transported the vulture to the Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre in Stara Zagora to receive treatment. 

At the Centre, veterinarians determined that the vulture had no injuries, but was very weak. Often in the wild, young and inexperienced Griffon Vultures fail to find food for long periods of adverse weather, especially in winter. Already emaciated, young birds become trusting of humans and even enter towns and villages searching for food, which is probably the reason for the young vulture’s behaviour. After a month of care at the Rescue Center, the Griffon Vulture named Carlson was ready to be returned to the wilderness where he belongs. After a final thorough check of his physical condition, the BSPB team equipped him with a coloured ring and a GPS transmitter, which will allow them to track his life after his release. On 22 January, the team released Carlson at the feeding station in the heart of the Eastern Rhodopes, where he will have the opportunity to join the local vulture colony and have enough food.

This success story was only possible thanks to the local people who alerted the BSPB team of the vulture, and of course the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of the BSPB and the Green Balkans teams. 

Live broadcast from a Griffon Vulture nest

A camera in Griffon Vultures’s nest in the Eastern Rhodopes shares interesting and exciting details from the pair, which are currently exhibiting breeding behaviour, building a nest.

Hopefully, the camera will offer thrilling close-up views of a nesting Griffon Vulture pair, to be enjoyed by nature lovers while also boosting conservation efforts. Such a camera will allow the LIFE RE-Vultures team to get an insight into their behaviour, eating habits, and so help the conservation of this majestic species. The equipment has been camouflaged with natural materials to not attract Griffon Vultures’ attention and so not interfere with their reproduction. Remote nest cameras are a non-invasive and effective way of monitoring wildlife and have become an important research tool. The project team selected the location for this camera after visiting several potential nesting sites. 

Griffon Vultures tend to be caring parents. The female lays an egg between January-February, with both partners taking turns incubating the egg for the next two months and raising their chick once it hatches. During hot summer days, each parent can spend hours with extended wings, shading their offspring. Let’s hope the nest camera will capture these special moments. Watch live on YouTube.

The camera was installed at the end of last year by a team from the BSPB, Green Balkans and Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation.

Sources: BSPB and Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation 

LIFE RE-Vultures

Starting in 2016, the five-year LIFE RE-Vultures project was developed by Rewilding Europe, in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of BirdsWWF Greece, the Hellenic Ornithological Society and us here at theVulture Conservation Foundation. The aim of the project is to support the recovery and further expansion of the populations of Cinereous and Griffon Vultures in the cross-border region of the Rhodope Mountain by improving natural prey availability, monitoring movements of birds to help understand the threats they face and carrying out activities that will reduce the mortality of the populations from threats such as illegal wildlife poisoning and collisions with electricity infrastructure.

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