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Restoring bearded vultures across Europe – two more birds released in the Swiss Alps

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Following the releases of bearded vultures in Corsica, Andalusia, and the Grands Causses, within our project to restore the species to its former European distribution, two young birds were released near Melchsee-Frutt in Central Switzerland on Sunday.

The two birds are both male, and come from the Guadalentin specialized bearded vulture captive breeding center in Andalucia, managed by the regional government. One of the birds is a descendant from an old breeding pair, which has laid, since 2008, 14 eggs, of which 11 chicks fledged – 7 of these have already been released (5 in Andalusia, 1 in Grands Causses and this year in Switzerland). This year´s nestling hatched in the incubator and has been reared by a foster pair, the parents of the second nestling released in Switzerland.

This second nestling is the first chick of a double clutch. His father was the first chick ever hatched at the breeding center Guadalentín (2002). The mother, 3 years older, laid for the first time in 2010. In 2013 this female reacted aggressive against the male and the incubation was not successful. The same situation repeated in 2014. Before the 2015 breeding season it was decided to put this pair in an aviary with visual contact with other breeding pairs. Immediately the female redirected her aggressions against the neighbour pairs. The pair incubated without problems and a chick hatched. This year the whole breeding process was again completely normal and results in two chicks.

The Main goal of the releases in Switzerland is to increment the genetic variability of the alpine population. Switzerland was chosen for this because of the low mortality of released birds and the high reproduction success of the reintroduced population.

The birds – named Alois and Cierzo, were presented to the 160 people attending the release site, in a rather snowy and rainy day. They were then taken to the platform high up in the mountains, where they will stay until they fledge naturally. You will be able to read about their development in this blog (in German): www.bartgeier.ch/bilderblog_2016

The public is encouraged to visit the release site from a distance over the next few weeks – for more information go to www.bartgeier.ch/auswilderung

Photos: Hansruedi Weyrich

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