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The eighth edition of La Plume du Life, the LIFE GYPCONNECT’s newsletter, released

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Young Bearded Vulture in flight (c) Franziska Loercher

There is only one year remaining until the end of LIFE GYPCONNECT, and so far, the project has achieved a lot in favour of the Bearded Vulture. In the latest edition of the project’s newsletter ‘La Plume due Life’, Bearded Vulture experts discuss captive breeding, releases, breeding results in the wild, and many other interesting topics relating to the species and its conservation in the project area and beyond. In this blog post, we share the original newsletter (in French) and summarize some of the highlights in English.

Bearded Vulture captive breeding and releases

The Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network, coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation on behalf of EAZA’s EEP, faced the biggest crisis since the creation of this programme in 1978 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, thanks to the incredible efforts of different centres and zoos of the network, it was possible to implement the emergency protocols developed by the VCF and save the Bearded Vulture chicks that hatched during the 2019/20 breeding season!

There were two protocols established for different circumstances. 

  1. The first protocol requires building a box inside the nest when adoption by biological parents is not possible because the parents stopped incubating or adoption failed. This allows chicks to have direct visual contact with their parents, but no physical contact, as this can prove to be fatal – sometimes parents injure or kill their offspring if they stop breeding for one reason or the other.
  2. The second protocol entails a double adoption and occurs when there is a double-clutch. Bearded Vulture nestlings cannot be in the same nest due to an evolutionary behaviour called ‘cainism’ where the chicks fight aggressively, leading to the death of the youngest sibling. To solve this, the facilities build two nests with a wooden plank separating the chicks.

Thanks to these protocols and the diligence of partners, in 2020, 41 Bearded Vulture breeding pairs laid 71 eggs, of which 38 hatched and 25 survived. Out of these 25 surviving chicks, 21 were released: eight in Andalusia, nine in the framework of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project (five in the Grands Causses, two in the Vercors and two in the Baronnies), two in Switzerland, two in Maestrazgo and four were integrated into the breeding network (three males and one female). Of these 25 chicks, 14 came from the breeding centres (18 breeding pairs) and 11 from zoos, conservation centres and private collections (23 breeding pairs).

Results of the breeding season in the Alps

There are a total of 58 monitored territories across the Alpine arc, with 36 Bearded Vulture fledglings produced in 2020 out of the 52 detected eggs.

In the French Alps, 12 pairs produced nine fledglings in the Northern Alps and six pairs produced two chicks in the Southern Alps.

After hatching during the first month of life, most of the failures occurred, some during the confinement period. 

Asters and Vanoise NP teams equipped four nestlings in the Northern Alps with GPS tags to better understand the dispersion of the individuals and to find them again they died or are in distress. 

The population of Bearded Vultures in the French Alps is continuously growing, and the reproductive success (no. of young fledged/no. of eggs laid) is at 0.65 for this year. 

Results of the breeding season in the Pyrenees 

With 15 young Bearded Vultures fledging on the Pyrenean massif’s northern slope, 2020 is one of the best years of this decade for the species’ reproduction in the region.

Productivity is still low in some areas, with the departments of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Pyrénées- Orientales having low productivity with an index of 0.3 and 0.28, respectively. Hautes-Pyrénées, on the other hand, has the highest productivity of 0.63.

This year, no new Bearded Vulture fledglings will fly in the Haute Garonne skies where the three pairs, unfortunately, failed to breed successfully.

Released Bearded Vulture shot and killed in the Grands Causses 

(c) LPO

On 11 October 2020, Dolomie, a newly reintroduced Bearded Vulture in the Grands-Causses, was discovered dead within the Cevennes National Park (Lozère) after its GPS tag had detected a lack of movement for several hours. X-rays revealed 15 pellets in the bird’s body that caused internal bleeding and death. An investigation launched following this finding, and now LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux), in collaboration with the gendarmerie, call for testimony to help identify the perpetrator.

You can download and review the eighth edition of the LIFE GYPCONNECT’s newsletter (in French) below where you can learn more about conservation actions taken to protect the species and many other news, including updates from some famous Bearded Vulture pairs in France.  

La plume du LIFE n°8.pdf

Adobe Acrobat Document 2.0 MB

LIFE GYPCONNECT

Led by the League pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), the LIFE GYPCONNECT project aims to establish a breeding population of Bearded Vultures in the Massif Central and Department of the Drôme. Releasing captive-bred Bearded Vultures into the wild at sites such as the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses,  Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies Provençales and Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors will create a core population that will connect the two populations of the species in the Alps and Pyrenees. To facilitate movements between the new population and the Alpine and Pyrenean populations the LIFE GYPCONNECT team is creating a network of supplementary feeding stations, and tackling threats such as poisoning, and collision and electrocution with the electricity infrastructure.

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