27 young Egyptian vultures have successfully left their nests in Bulgaria and Greece in 2015

19.09.2015
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  • 27 young Egyptian vultures have successfully left their nests in Bulgaria and Greece in 2015

The monitoring of the territories in Bulgaria occupied by Egyptian vultures in the beginning of the breading season had shown that 22 of the 27 pairs in the country had started incubation. 19 of them successfully raised 25 chicks (four in North Bulgaria and 21 in the Eastern Rhodopes). This is a relatively high percentage of successful pairs of Egyptian vultures, given that three of the couples were newly-formed (two in North Bulgaria and one in the Eastern Rhodopes) – it is normal for them not to raise offspring in the first 1-2 years, due to lack of experience.

During the monitoring of occupied territories in Greece 10 territories were detected, out of which eight were pairs and two were solitary individuals. Of the eight pairs, six started incubating. Four of them hatched five chicks, but only three chicks, from two pairs in Thrace, managed to fledge. In addition, one of the pairs in the area of Thrace failed during the incubation (with two eggs) and although there was a trail camera installed in the nest, no obvious reason for the breeding failure could be discovered. Another pair failed in the area of Meteora in the same period due to unknown circumstances. One of the chicks (about 20 days old) was predated by a fox in the nest and another fledgling (about 40 days old) was found dead in the nest, and we hope the reasons of its death will be revealed soon thanks to the different analyses that will be carried out in a toxicological laboratory in Spain.        

How did the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron” help the vultures raise successfully their offspring?

Supplementary feeding: after returning from Africa, the majority of pairs in Bulgaria and Greece were regularly fed with safe food. Thus, pairs were encouraged to nest and raise offspring, while the risk of death due to poison was decreased. Depending on the specifics of the area, the density of pairs, the presence of competing species, and the project’s resources some of the pairs were fed individually (near the nest) with small quantities of meat (1-3 kg) every 2-3 days. Other pairs were provided with large amounts of meat at specialized feeding sites (or so called “vulture restaurants”) once a week. Feeding sites were used to attract wandering birds inciting them to stay in the area and find a pair - as was the case in the Rusenski Lom Nature Park. There the supplementary feeding was done on two platforms simultaneously and the effort paid off - this year a pair was formed which has risen offspring (in 2014 the region had only one single female bird).

Supplementary feeding in Bulgaria this year was carried out for 19 pairs (seven in Northern Bulgaria and 12 in the Eastern Rhodopes) thanks to the efforts of 11 local project collaborators. Generally, over 400 supplementary feedings were done and over 10 tons of meat (provided by local farmers and slaughter houses) was provided to the vultures.

In Greece the individual supplementary feeding (near the nest) was carried out in three nests (one in Thrace and two in Meteora). In one case, the action stopped when the chick was eaten by the fox, while in another it was stopped when the adults were found poisoned. Three of the pairs located in Dadia National Park benefit from the feeding station in the Park that has been working for over 20 years. In the area of Meteora, one of the three pairs regularly visits the feeding station that has been re-opened in the framework of the project.

Nest guarding: Because during the breeding season birds can be easily disturbed and sometimes juveniles fail in their first flight attempts, each year the project provides protection of nests and juveniles.

In Bulgaria in August, like in 2014, а volunteer program was organized in the Eastern Rhodopes where the main part of the national population of the species is located. Twelve volunteers from across the country and two foreigners from Lithuania and Germany attended the programme and besides them a few more people helped nest guards. Thirteen out of the 15 successful nests (which covered 18 out of the 21 juveniles) in the region were guarded daily. In Northern Bulgaria all four successive nests with a total of 4 juveniles were guarded and the activity was carried out by the local people who feed the vultures.

We are grateful to the donors and volunteers, thanks to which the nest guarding of the Egyptian vulture for this year completed successfully!

In Greece, all four nests in Thrace were guarded since June 3-5 days per week. After the incubation failure in one nest and the chick death in another one, only two nests left subject of nest guarding which afterwards were guarded on daily basis from the beginning of July until the departure of birds to Africa. The activity was implemented by EVS (European Voluntary Service) and Greek volunteers. In Meteora, two nests were regularly supervised as part of the supplementary feeding scheme.

This year there were two chicks saved thanks to the nest-guarding programme –one in Greece and one in Bulgaria. At the beginning of August one chick was saved in Thrace, Greece, when fell down below the nest and alone was not able to get back there. In early September, the unique juvenile in the Natural Park “Rousenski Lom”, Northern Bulgaria, was abandoned by the parents and in early September it was taken from the nest and sent to the Green Balkans Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Stara Zagora. All the other 27 young Egyptian vultures from Bulgaria and Greece left their nests successfully.

Egyptian vultures have already started to leave the Balkans and are heading to Africa where they will spend the winter. The young birds for the first time will face the enormous challenge of migration. We wish them a safe trip - hopefully they will survive and will return to their homeland after a few years!

 

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The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe

The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe