The bearded vulture reintroduction project in the Alps is one of the most successful and celebrated wildlife comeback stories in Europe. Following extinction in the beginning of the 20th century, the species started to be reintroduced in 1986, and today there are 34 established territorial pairs that last year fledged 20 young. The population is slowly increasing in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria.
However, the exact population size is not known – as bearded vultures take at least 5 years to mature sexually, there are lots of immatures flying around. The total population of the Alps is estimated at 200-250 birds.
In order to try to arrive at a better estimate of the total population size, every year bearded vulture researchers and enthusiasts attempt a one day simultaneous survey across the alpine chain, to count and identify as many bearded vultures as possible – an exercise that helps with the regional monitoring efforts, and ultimately will contribute to accurate population demography figures.
In 2014 630 observers participated in this phenomenal citizen science event – they saw between 87 and 95 different bearded vultures, including 48 marked birds– see the report below. Last year the census took place on the 10th October. 707 observers distributed in almost 500 sites (494) saw at least 118 different bearded vultures (approximately half of the estimated population size), out of a total of 447 bearded vulture observations. The full report on the 2015 International Observation Day will be published in due time.
The VCF would like to thank all these hundreds of observers who have given their time to track this most charismatic species across Europe’s largest mountain chain. The International Observation Day is a momentous effort, requiring a lot of effort to coordinate, but it also provides vulture enthusiasts with a great day out, and an opportunity to engage with fellow colleagues who share the same passion.
It is impossible to name all volunteers – instead, we will name one that crystalizes the effort of many. Christian Couloumy coordinates very effectively the IOD in the Haut-Dauphiné (French Alps). Below you can also download his report, which not only is a powerful testament of the widespread public engagement and effort that this exercise requires, but is also a good example of other anonymous efforts that are reputed across the Alps by people like him. Merci Christian, thank you all!
(Photo Bruno Berthémy/VCF)