The black vulture went extinct in France in the beginning of the XXth century, but the species is now back following a very successful reintroduction project, started in 1992, and that is still on-going. The first birds were released in the Grands Causes, while in 20014 and 2005 two other reintroduction sites were established, in Baronnies and Verdon, respectively.
Releases have already stopped in the Grands Causses (in 2004), after 50 birds were released there throughout the years. So far 40 black vultures have been already released in the Baronnies, and 26 in Verdon. Most of these vultures comes from Spain, injured and weak birds that enter rehabilitation centers there and are there sent to France. Some come from captive breeding as well.
First breeding in the wild happened in 1996, 90 years after the last known breeding in France. First breeding in Baronnies happened in 2010, while in the Gorges du Verdon it was registered in 2013.
In 2015, a total of 31 pairs have started to breed – 21 in the Grands Causses, 9 in Baronnies and 1 in Verdon. In total 16 young fledged – 12 in Grands Causses, 3 in Baronnies and 1 in Verdon. Most were ringed with colour rings, and feathers from them were also taken, as it happens every year, for genetic analysis and to determine the gender.
At least 72 different individuals have been identified in the Grands Causses last year, the vast majority birds born locally. Only one of the reintroduced stock (that finished there in 2004) was still seen. At least 19 birds from Grands Causses have been seen in Baronnies, showing that there is a regular flow of individuals between the three reintroduction sites, but they also fly wider – some were seen in Spain. One particular individual merits some mention – born in 2014, it was seen swimming in from the Mediterranean Sea at a beach in the pre-Pyrenees in February 2015. Soon after it was back in the Grands Causses, only to be obsessed in May 2015 in the Vosges (eastern France), before returning to the Grands Causses in the end of August.
The current reintroduction efforts, that should continue for 2-3 years more, are also included in the national species action plan, that aims to restore the species across its former distribution area in the country.
The VCF has recently transported 7 more birds to Baronnies and Verdon for the reintroduction project there.
One final word – the reintroduction project in France would not have been possible without the collaboration and engagement of the Spanish regional and central governments, who have collaborated and sent dozens of rehabilitated black vultures to France for reintroduction.
You can download the full report about the situation of the black vulture in France (in English and in French) below