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The VCF was present in the meeting on Mediterranean Raptors held recently in Italy

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The Meeting on the conservation of Mediterranean Raptors “Sotto il segno del Biancone” took place in Grosseto on 10-12 September 2015. About 80 ornithologists and nature conservation managers participated at this important event, including Fulvio Genero for the VCF – Fulvio is a member of the VCF scientific advisory board and manages a griffon vulture supplementary feeding area in NE Italy.

Overall 31 papers were presented during the two-day meeting:  the first day was dedicated to different species of raptors, while the second day focused on the Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus).

Among the presentations, there was one on the good results obtained with the reintroduction of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in Tuscany, which achieved first breeding in the wild in 2011 only 5 years after first releases and after the release of 33 young so far. Up to the present 15 fledglings have been recorded. Further conservation actions are planned in Sardinia and other islands.

There were also presentations on management techniques within vulture feeding points in the eastern Alps and Calabria, that are contributing to an increase of the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) populations in the Alps and central Italy. The restocking of the Red Kite (Milvus milvus) in Tuscany, with the releasing of 109 young between 2007 and 2014, led also to the establishment of a breeding population with at least 15-20 pairs, that attract also other kites in winter.

The release of captive-bred Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) by CERM (Centro Rapaci Minacciati) began in 1993   out of 29 young produced in a specialized captive-breeding center managed by that NGO, 19 were released with the Hacking method – six of them in 2015 (see here), all equipped with GPS transmitter, in collaboration with VCF. Currently there are only 7 pairs of this species in Italy. The establishment of supplementary feeding points is very important for the conservation of the Egyptian Vulture, which is still threatened by poisoning, disturbance, electrocution, wind farms and shooting in Italy.  Satellite studies show also that the mortality is very high during migration. Conservation actions have been carried out in Sicily in recent years, mainly through surveillance by volunteers of LIPU (Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli) and Gruppo Tutela Rapaci of breeding areas in order to avoid illegal theft from nests, also of Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) (before 2010  7-12 young per year were taken from nests), and Lanner (Falco biarmicus). These conservation efforts have led to an increase in the Bonelli’s Eagle population with ca. 40 pairs and 115 young fledged from 2012 to 2015.

Other presentation focussed on the conservation and monitoring efforts on Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) and the Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) in the eastern part of the Po valley (Parma Province). The presence of forage crops, related with the production of Parmigiano cheese, are favourable to these species, that started to breed respectively in 2000 and 1995. Conservation projects by LIPU, including installation of nest boxes, have led to a population increase of up to 43 pairs in 2013 for the Lesser Kestrel and 70 pairs for the Red-footed Falcon. The Lesser Kestrel is studied also in south Italy (Apulia) through ringing (1859 birds ringed up to now) and satellite telemetry. Sadly, the situation of the Lanner in Italy is negative, with a strong decrease  in central Italy probably related to a remarkable increase of the Peregrine, present also in Rome with 10 pairs.

During the second day of the meeting the habitat and habitat preferences of the Short-toed Eagle were presented, with a focus on the main Italian areas for the species: Western Alps, Tuscany, Latium and Apulia. The main aim of the meeting is also to establish a working group on this species, which is scarcely known in Italy.

For further information contact Fulvio Genero at genero@tin.it

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