Bearded vulture chicks have been hatching left, right and centre across the VCF-coordinated bearded vulture captive breeding network – this year the 34 bearded vulture pairs in captivity have laid 55 eggs, from which 20 chicks have already hatched (4 died in the first few hours). Most of the survivors are being taken care of by their natural parents – in our network young birds are reared by their own conspecifics, and we avoid if at all possible hand-raising for long periods, so that human imprinting is avoided, and the young birds receive from the adult pair all the behavioural clues necessary for a balanced development that will be important when they are eventually released in nature, in reintroduction projects, which is the ultimate aim of the network.
However, in some cases, some human help is needed in the crucial first few days. These birds often lay two eggs, but in nature only the first chick survives because it hatches 6-7 days earlier than the second, so curators often collect the second egg towards the end of the incubation period, incubate it artificially for the last few days, help it hatch, feed the chick in the first few days (before human imprinting occurs), and then give the young chick to a foster couple that lost their eggs (and kept in breeding mode using dummy eggs). Some other times, the chick is abandoned by their (often inexperienced) parents, or the egg has a problem and needs some help to hatch. In those cases, teams of dedicated volunteers work day and night to take care of precious eggs, help vultures hatch, and feed the young chicks in the key first few days of their lives– like in the video below, taken a few days ago at the bearded vulture specialized captive breeding center in Haringsee (Austria) managed by EGS.
The VCF would like to thank all for this enormous work and dedication. Without them, the magnificent bearded vulture would not be flying high above the Alps, Grands Causses and Andalucia. Thank you, well done!