A Rueppell's vulture (Gyps rueppelli) has been observed last Saturday in… Switzerland!
One individual from this African vulture species, more commonly associated with African savannahs than with crowded European cities, was seen sitting on a roof top in Basel, being attacked by a bunch of crows.
The sight must have been amazing, and the story was picked up by the local press – which has wrongly identified the bird as a Eurasian griffon vulture (you can read the story here in German).
The slighter smaller Rueppell's vulture (endangered in the IUCN list) has been observed in increasing numbers in the Iberian Peninsula, but this is the first ever observation in Switzerland.
This individual has been seen both in France and in Switzerland – see
The bird, an adult, was not ringed, which suggests it may be of wild, rather than captive origin – the species is kept in zoos and may have escaped from one of them.
Rueppell´s vultures probably mix with wintering Eurasian griffons in West Africa, and then come to Europe with them. Every autumn or spring several birds of this species are counted during the regular monitoring of the raptor migration in the straits of Gibraltar – e.g. 21 going south during the whole of the 2012 fall season in Tarifa. In the extreme southwest of Portugal (Sagres) about 4-5 different individuals of Rueppell´s vulture are seen every fall among the many hundreds of Eurasian griffons that occur there on passage.
Two years ago a Rueppell´s vulture was winged tagged in Portugal, and was then seen in France and Spain, indicating these birds range wide and far across the continent during their European sojourn. The species has also tried to breed in Iberia, in hybrid pairings with Eurasian griffons, but to date there has not been any evidence of successful breeding (mixed pairs or same species).