This year, the race for first egg laid in the bearded vulture captive breeding network, coordinated by the VCF to support the ongoing reintroduction projects, was won by BG175, who laid the first egg on the 6th December. She is a superb female bearded vulture, living in the Richard Faust Specialized Captive Breeding Center in Haringsee (Austria).
This female was born in 1992 in Tierpark Berlin, within the bearded vulture breeding network managed by the VCF, from founder parents with Asian origin. She is paired with a male, offspring of the only founder from Crete in the captive breeding population. The pair bred successfully for the first time in 2001-2002, with their first young released in Haute Savoie. They have so far produced 13 offspring, six of which were released in nature and 7 included in the EEP network. We hope they will again be successful this year – they beat all the other pairs to lay the first egg!
Soon after, the pair in Liberec zoo also laid an egg (08 December), and so did the female from La Garenne (Switzerland) (on 10th December) (see video). Now a pair at the specialized breeding center run by the Junta de Andalucia in Guadalentín has also already laid two eggs.
During the next weeks almost all pairs will lay. In general females which are breeding for the first time lay their first egg later (an average difference of around 30 days between first-egg laying date and later). Just before laying their eggs, females become more occupied with the nest and can be found lying down on it more often. In double clutches the second egg is laid on average 5-6 days later, and is smaller and almost white.
Bearded vultures are one of the earliest breeders in Europe – their timing perfectly adapted to have chicks in early spring, when many of the mountain herbivores on which they feed (when they die) have their first births – and birth complications! Pairing take place in October or November, approximately 2 months before eggs are laid. The snow and cold of their mountain realms does not deter them, and so they incubate through the cold winter months.
The Vulture Conservation Foundation is the coordinator of the bearded vulture European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), a collaborative and coordinated network of over 30 zoos, wildlife parks, specialized breeding centers and private collections, that aims to breed the species in captivity for conservation purposes. The bearded vulture EEP is at the base of the ongoing reintroduction projects in the Alps, Cazorla (Southern Spain) and Cevennes (Central France). In the Alps the species is staging a remarkable comeback, with 30 established territories 100 years after it went extinct there.