Third wild breeding pair of Bearded Vultures confirmed in Andalucia

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One of the breeding Bearded Vultures pair in Andalucia

Bearded Vulture pair Encina and Sansón are set to become Andalucia´s third pair of breeding Bearded Vultures since the release of captive-bred birds began in 2006, according according to the team from the Junta de Andalucía’s Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning.

The Bearded Vulture breeding season

Right across the high mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps, Bearded Vultures are in the middle of the breeding season with some of the first eggs starting to hatch. In the Sierras of Andalucía the first confirmed laying of the breeding pairs in the region was on Friday 18 January, when Hortelano and Marchena laid their clutch, marking the pair’s third breeding after having successfully raised young birds in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 breeding seasons.

The confirmation of the of laying by Encina and Sansón brings the total breeding pairs in Andalucía to three. The region’s most successful breeding pair, Tono and Blimunda, are currently in their fourth breeding season, had laid their clutch at the beginning of February.

This pair has successfully raised three young chicks since starting breeding in 2014/15 – the first ever breeding in the wild in southern Spain after extinction of the species in the 1980s.

Tono, the Bearded Vulture released in 2006
Tono, the Bearded Vulture released in 2006

Encina and Sansón

This pair of Bearded Vultures were released into the wild back in 2012. Encina was born and raised at Andalucia´s Guadalentín Bearded Vulture Specialised captive-Breeding Centre managed by the Fundación Gypaetus, whilst Sansón was raised in Germany’s Nuremberg Zoo. At six years old they are a young pair, which formed in 2017 and were observed performing all the pair-bonding behaviours, such as mutual preening, nest building and aerial displays, and it’s hoped that this will help their first breeding be a success.

Reintroducing Bearded Vultures to Andalucía

A young Bearded Vulture being presented to the local community ahead of the release into the wild
A young Bearded Vulture being presented to the local community ahead of the release into the wild

Bearded Vultures disappeared from the skies of Andalucía in 1986 mainly because of direct persecution, illegal wildlife poisoning and human disturbance of the nesting sites. Led by the Junta de Andalucía, the Fundación Gypaetus, and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, a reintroduction project began in 1996, with the first captive-bred birds, Tono and Blimunda released in 2006. Since 2006 54 birds have been released in the area. With the successful breeding of wild Bearded Vulture every year since the 2014/15 breeding season (except in 2015/16), the project is already a resounding success, and we expect the population to continue to grow.

This news is fantastic for the Andalucian Bearded Vulture Reintroduction project and means the species is firmly re-established and is a testament to the commitment of all the organisations such as the Junta de Andalucía and the Fundación Gypaetus involved in making the region safer for vultures. As the breeding season progresses we will bring you more news. You can follow the latest updates by following #BeardedVultureBreedingSeason on Twitter and Facebook.

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