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Results of the annual census of summering Griffon Vultures in the Alps are out: 1800+ birds!

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Photo by Angel Sanchez

Griffon vultures are gregarious birds, with both breeding and non-breeding vultures usually congregating in large summering roosts after the nesting season. In the last few years, parallel to the increase of the Spanish and French Griffon populations, the number of summering individuals spending some time in the Alps has also been increasing. In the last few years, researchers and vulture enthusiasts across this mountain chain organize an evening count of traditional summering roosts on the same date, to try to quantify the total number of vultures summering in the Alps.

This year the count was done on the 17th August 2013, and the table below summarizes the final results

Summer home range W-Alps E-Alps Total
    – of the breeding population 795 138 933
    – at distance from breeding colonies 827 56 883
Total 1,622 194 1,816
Observation posts 131 3  134
Observers 235 5 240

Table 1 :Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus census in the Alps on the 17th August 2013 : minimal certain numbers.

This number compares with 1,479 griffons counted in 2012, and 1,162 in 2011 in the W-Alps.


Birds were counted mostly in the southern French Alps, northwards up to Savoie (≥ 182). There were almost none in the Pre-Alps. In Haute-Savoie 17 were counted (much less than in early summer), and in Italy 16.  Given the ≥ 279 breeding pairs and the usual breeding-non breeding rate, we estimate that approximately 35% of the birds counted are summer visitors.


Census only in National Parc Hohe Tauern (Austria) and in Lake of Cornino Nature Reserve (Italy), due to few observers being available. Therefore numbers are an underestimation. On the 12th September a minimum of 242 Griffons were on a Friulan feeding place, and this should be considered as the summering absolute minimum for 2013 for this region.


No counts. Some tens summering mostly in West, but almost totally absent after July


No counts. There were some groups of griffon in May and June (up to 26 in Mecklenburg).

This count was possible thanks to the efficient cooperation between a lot of volunteer observers and professional teams of Regional Nature Parks (Vercors, Chartreuse, Alpi Marittime, Val Troncea), National Parks (Ecrins, Mercantour and Vanoise), Associations (Vautours-en-Baronnies. LPO (Drôme, Isère, Savoie, -Haute-Savoie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), LIPU, CRAS Bernezzo, Cuneobirding), Nature Reserves (Hauts Plateaux du Vercors, Haute Chartreuse) and, in Savoie only, Offices Nationaux – des Forêt, -de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage.

Recommendations for future census

French Alps, Switzerland

Census coverage has probably to be improved between Mercantour, Savoie and southern Prealps.

Austrian, Italian and Slovenian Alps

The effectiveness needs to be improved by:

  • Having more observers covering a larger area of the summer distribution;
  • Locating new roosting places before the census.

Massif-Central (F)

In the gorges des Causses a summer census should be organized, as efficient as the breeding monitoring of the local population (2013: 414 pairs). For a vulture, the Massif-Central is nothing but the most western part of the Alpine region sensu lato.


Jean-Pierre Choisy

Birdlife France

Vulture Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission

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