The bearded vulture reintroduction project in the Alps started in the late 70s, when a captive breeding network was established to breed bearded vultures for reintroduction in the Alps, where the species had gone extinct in 1913. Young bearded vulture chicks have been released yearly in the Alps since 1986, and this project has already re-established the species into the mountain chain – 30 pairs are now breeding there.
The reintroduction project is nearing its end - releases will continue for a few more years, mostly to strengthen the genetic diversity of the population, and to promote linkages with other nearby populations (namely the Pyrenean).
This year two birds have been allocated for release in the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, one of the eight release sites so far used in this project. Kilian and Felix were taken last Friday by staff from Hohe Tauern NP into in a previously prepared ledge in a cliff. The two birds will be fed during the first few weeks, and their movements monitored by round.-the-clock volunteers. We expect them to fledge around mid-June.
So far 57 birds have been released in Hohe Tauern NP, and this year 3 breeding pairs raised young in the region, a new record. The Hohe Tauern are on the eastern end of the alpine distribution range for this species, and this subpopulation is important for a future re-colonisation of the Balkans.
The project is led by Hohe Tauern national Park, with the following partners: EGS Eulen- und Greifvogelstation Haringsee and the VCF. The VCF coordinates the bearded vulture captive breeding network that provides the young bearded vultures for release. These are raised naturally by captive pairs, are not hand-reared and not imprinted on humans.
The two male nestlings released last Friday were born in Liberec Zoo (“Kilian”) and in the Centre de Fauna Vallcalent (“Felix”). They were given their names by the Austrian Lotteries and the famous boulder climber Kilian Fischhuber, and will be soon flying high above the Austrian Alps.