Across France, the four vulture species – Bearded Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture – find ideal conditions for breeding. What are the population trends and more recent breeding results for each species? In this extensive article, we share an overview of the breeding success of all four vulture species in France and the progress of some of the ongoing reintroduction and restocking projects.
Griffon Vultures in France
In 2022, the breeding success of the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) has decreased across all French regions compared to 2021. Avian influenza might have contributed to this result, which was especially felt in the Atlantic Pyrenees.
- French Pyrenees: 1254 breeding pairs, breeding success of only 0.24;
- Massif Central: From the 905 breeding pairs (more than 10% from the previous year), 285 fledglings were produced and the breeding success was 0.31, whilst in 2021 the BS was 0.75.
- PreAlps: a total of 2500-3000 Griffon Vultures were counted during the summer, including birds from Spain, Portugal and Italy. There was also a significant decrease in breeding success (0.3) in Verdon and Baronnies.
In 2023, it seems that the number of breeding pairs in the Grands Causses was lower, but it is too early to understand if the decrease represents real mortality or if the birds moved to another area to breed.
Read more about the conservation efforts that brought back the Griffon Vulture in France, marking the first-ever successful reintroduction project of big raptors.
Bearded Vulture in France
In the last breeding season 2021/2022, there was a new record of Bearded Vulture fledglings in France: 49 chicks fledged, with a breeding success of 0.73. This is the best breeding success ever recorded in France, and the best in Europe too as 99 Bearded Vultures fledged! In the French Pyrenees, the breeding success was higher than on the Spanish side.
- Alps: 21 breeding pairs produced 14 fledglings: 0.67 productivity. The subpopulation in the Southern Alps is growing very slowly, with high dispersal from the South to the Central and Northern Alps.
- Pyrenees: High productivity on the East side, but a slow decrease in the West, especially in the Atlantic Pyrenees, which was traditionally the stronghold of the breeding population in the French Pyrenees. Breeding success was 0.47 but productivity (number of fledgling/pair) was only 0.32.
- Corsica: From the 18-20 individuals on the island, there are 4 breeding pairs, including a newly established pair of young reintroduced birds.
Progress on reintroduction and restocking initiatives
Several ongoing projects are releasing young captive-bred Bearded Vultures into the wild to reintroduce the species in areas it went extinct or restock local populations under threat.
- PreAlps: 2 birds were reintroduced, Canteperdrix and Riglos (Baronnies). A total of 31 individuals have been reintroduced in the PreAlps until now.
- Grands Causses: 10 Bearded Vultures were released. In total, 32 juveniles have been released within the reintroduction programme, 28 fledged successfully and 9 are still in the south of the Massif Central.
- Corsica: Two Bearded Vultures were released in May 2022 as part of restocking actions, but one died already. The ongoing LIFE GYPRESCUE is working to prevent the extinction of the Bearded Vulture population in Corsica.
Cinereous Vulture in France
The Cinereous Vulture population in France has faced a slight increase over the last few years. With an estimated population of 53 breeding pairs (see the Population Estimates Report produced by the VCF in 2022), around 12% of them are composed of two females.
The number of individuals has also been increasing thanks to reintroduction efforts: in Verdon, 38 Cinereous Vultures were released between 2005 and 2022 and 3 will be released this year.
- Verdon: 8 breeding pairs with an average breeding success of 0.45 since 2013. 6 birds were released but 3 of them died.
- Baronnies: 13 breeding pairs, one less than in 2021(and the number has been decreasing since 2020); the breeding success of 0.45.
- Grands Causses: 28 pairs laid a clutch and the breeding success was 0.54. Three Spanish Cinereous Vultures are present in the Grands Causses, all females, suggesting a longer dispersal trend for this gender.
Egyptian Vulture in France
The population trend for the Egyptian Vulture in France is stable. However, the species is locally declining in several areas of the South-East and Pyrenees. In 2022, 88 breeding pairs produced 70 fledglings. In the Pyrenees, there was a record in the number of pairs with two fledglings, 11 in total.
In South-East France, the species seems to have been moving up north over the last 10 years: Vaucluse lost 6 breeding pairs in 12 years (has currently 4), and in Ardèche the colony increased from 1 to 5, suggesting a possible recolonisation. In the Pays Basque, 13 individuals have been seen around traditional roosting areas but the use of these low mountains has been decreasing, possibly due to human disturbance.
In the Pyrenees, 14 breeding pairs produced 5 fledglings in the Pays Basque, a very low breeding success. In the Pyrenees National Park, there are 21 breeding pairs. Only 38% of the breeding territories in the Pyrenees Atlantiques have a Special Protected Area SPA (ZPS) status, which represents a low coverage by the Natura 2000 network. This factor hampers potential LIFE projects focused on conservation measures for the Egyptian Vulture.
The population trends are similar across the border: there is a decline in both French and Spanish populations in the western part of the Pyrenees (Navarra and Aragon) and an increase in the Eastern part of the Pyrenees (Catalunya) In France, the species needs to be prioritised again.
These results come from four days of different meetings aimed at summarising status, breeding results and conservation actions for the four vulture species in France:
- Comité de pilotage du Plan National d’Actions en faveur du Gypaète barbu
- Comité de pilotage du Plan National d’Actions en faveur du Vautour moine
- Comité de pilotage du Plan National d’Actions en faveur du Percnoptère d’Egypte
- Comité de pilotage du Plan National d’Actions en faveur du Vautour fauve et des activités d’élevage
The meetings were organised by the ‘Direction régionale de l’environnement, de l’aménagement et du logement (DREAL) Nouvelle Aquitaine’ and they were held from the 30 January to 2 February in the buildings of the DREAL Occitanie in Montpellier.