The CAAN Lamoso feeding station in the LIFE Rupis project area in Portugal had a mysterious visitor – a colour ringed Egyptian Vulture that was never seen before there.
What is the vulture’s origin?
Egyptian Vulture 3UF
The camera trap that helps conservationists observe and study the behaviour of vultures feeding at the station photographed the ringed Egyptian Vulture. To identify the bird, our colleagues from Palombar – Associação de Conservação da Natureza e do Património Rural contacted the Oficina de Anillamiento de la Estación Biológica de Doñana which manages a long-term colour ringing project to study Egyptian Vulture population demographics. This vulture’s ring code was 3UF. It was ringed as a chick in the nest near Sebúlcor in Spain in 2015, 221 km from Lamoso feeding site, meaning that the bird is now a sub-adult, around four years old.
This is an interesting observation because Egyptian Vultures are thought to be very “faithful” to their natal origins, usually returning to the same breeding populations when they reach maturity. However, as this bird is unlikely to attempt to breed for another two years, the presence of 3UF in the Douro might be due to normal exploratory movements expected in non-breeding individuals.
The Lamoso feeding station is part of the network of more than ten supplementary feeding sites managed by local partners in the LIFE Rupis project area in the Douro region of the Spain-Portugal border. The steep-sided Douro canyon is home to more than 116 pairs of Egyptian Vultures and the supplementary feeding strategy is specifically aimed at increasing their survival rates and productivity.
Not only that, but feeding stations can be beneficial for both vultures and local communities. The primary aim is to provide a safe and regular source of food for vultures, but they also provide the service of natural and controlled disposal of livestock for the local communities, as well as, in some cases, opportunities for ecotourism.
The Egyptian Vultures use the different feeding stations in different ways, depending on the time of year. For example, our colleagues at Palombar report that Egyptian Vultures visit the Lamoso feeding site in highest numbers (up to 11 individuals can appear in one camera trap photo) in June-July, whereas our colleagues at ATN have recorded very high numbers (more than 20 at a time) of Egyptian Vultures, including juveniles, at the Escalhão feeding site during the pre-migration period in August-September. The movements of the tracked individuals show that they are also visiting the feeding sites more frequently this year, and it is clear that they are providing a safe source of food for this important population of Egyptian Vultures.
Record number of vultures at Rupis feeding station
A record number of vultures were spotted using the supplementary feeding station established by the LIFE RUPIS project. In August, 24 Egyptian Vultures and four Cinereous Vultures were feeding together! Due to this peak in the number of visitors, the team aims to continue to provide food twice a week during September.
Supplementary feeding strategies for vulture conservation across Europe and within Portugal will be discussed during two special symposia at the European Vulture Conference – you can still join us in the Algarve, Portugal, from 1-4 October to learn more!
The LIFE Rupis conservation project, led by Portuguese wildlife organisation Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), and funded by the European Union’s LIFE Fund and the MAVA Foundation, is working in the cross-border Douro region of Spain and Portugal to protect and strengthen the populations of Egyptian vultures and Bonelli´s eagle. With around 135 breeding pairs, the region has one of the largest population of Egyptian vultures in Europe. Creating a network of feeding stations, improving habitat and nesting sites as well as tackling the major threats of electrocution from electricity pylons and illegal wildlife poisoning, the LIFE Rupis project will strengthen the population and improve breeding rates.