Bright breeding season 2017 in Bulgaria and new challenges for the Egyptian vultures in Greece

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© Svetoslav Mitkov

In Bulgaria the total number of occupied territories in 2017 was 27 (19 in the Rhodopes and 8 in Northern Bulgaria). The number of occupied territories is 10% less in comparison to 2016 but the number of pairs that started breeding was higher - 23 pairs in 2017 (22 in 2016). The number of successful pairs hasn‘t change between 2016 and 2017 – 20 pairs. In 2017 they raised 24 chicks in total but only 22 successfully left the nest (18 in the Rhodopes and 4 in the north of Bulgaria). The number of raised and fledged chicks was relatively the same in 2016 – 25 raised against 23 that fledged.


In 2017 we reached the maximum of non-breeding birds and floaters in the last 5 years appearing across the feeding stations in the Balkan Mountains and Kresna gorge supported by Green Balkans, FWFF, BPPS, and in the Eastern Rhodopes by the BSPB. Non-breeders and floaters play an important role in the population as a reserve pool and the higher their number is the greater is the chance for establishment of new breeding territories or replacements in already existing ones.


In Greece, the final number of occupied territories was six out of which five were occupied by pairs and one by solitary single individual. In Thrace, four territories were located, all of them occupied by pairs, whereas in Central Greece only two territories were found, occupied  by a pair and a single bird. Unfortunately this year, Thrace suffered the loss of a territory occupied by a single bird in 2016. Incubation was confirmed for all Greek pairs (100%), but only three of them managed to raise offspring (all three of them in Thrace), totaling three juveniles (two in the Dadia National Park and one in Kompsato) that successfully left from their nests.


Supplementary feeding

In Bulgaria, 11 pairs (6 in Northern Bulgaria and 5 in the Rhodope Mountains) were regularly fed throughout the breeding season 2017 with small quantities of meat. Another 3 pairs in the Eastern Rhodopes were feeding at the vulture restaurants in the area. Generally, 358 supplementary feedings were done by 9 local contributors in 7 project areas and 589 kg of meat (provided by local farmers and slaughter houses) were provided to the vultures.

Also this year, the three pairs nesting in the Dadia National Park benefited from the feeding station which was operated and monitored on a systematic basis by the Management Body of the Dadia National Park and the Regional Unit of Evros. The highest number of individuals was nine counted in August, of where six were adults, one immature and two juveniles. These two juveniles might be those that fledged in the Dadia National Park. In Central Greece another feeding station was operated by HOS for the benefit of the two remaining territories, whereas in the area of Epirus the existing small feeding site, targeting foraging Egyptian vultures from the neighboring Albania, was operated by a local stakeholder.

Nest guarding

During the breeding season birds can be easily disturbed and sometimes juveniles fail in their first flight attempts, so each year the project provides protection of nests and juveniles. The period around the first flight of the juveniles  (late July-early August) is the most critical since, due to lack of experience, some of them may fall out of the nest, get hurt or become a victim of predators.

Each year we feed a regular number of pairs but we also make sure that everything is going well so our collaborators look after the pairs they feed too. In 2017, 8 of our local collaborators were guarding 11 pairs as well. Additionally 8 volunteers covered extra nests in the fledgling period in the Eastern Rhodopes. In this line, 14 successful nests were guarded during the fledgling period in total. We succeeded to secure 17 (74%) out of 22 juveniles who successfully left the nests in 2017.

In Greece, specifically in Thrace, two nests were guarded by the EVS volunteers (European Voluntary Service) hosted by WWF Greece, Dadia Project. Guarding took place on a daily basis from mid July until the pair and its offspring migrated in September to their wintering grounds.

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


© Vladimir Dobrev
© Vladimir Dobrev
© Vladimir Dobrev
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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