A total of 18 young bearded vultures was released this Spring-Summer in our four reintroduction-restocking projects: 6 in Andalusia, two in Corsica, four in Grands Causses/Massif Central (within project LIFE GYPCONNECT), and 6 in the Alps/Pre-Alps (four of which, in Vercors and Baronnies, also within the LIFE GYPCONNECT project).
Releasing bearded vultures in the field is a major operation – birds are put usually in pairs on a hacking platform several weeks before they can fledge, and fed at night or though some tubes from the top of the cliff to avoid human contact and imprinting.
After fledgling, the amount of food deposited is decreased progressively to encourage them to forage for food on their own.
Throughout this operation, a team of staff and volunteers watches over the birds 24/7, usually from a cabin or hide located 1km or more from the hacking platform, to prevent any problems.
In this series, we will bring you some stories about some of the individuals released this year.
One of them is Durzon, a young male bearded vulture that was born in the bearded vulture specialized captive breeding center in Guadalentin (Andalusia, Spain) and that was released in Grands Causses in the beginning of June. Usually young bearded vultures stay close to their hacking site for several months, and only disperse in their first spring – on their second year, but Durzon, uncharacteristically, started to fly north and left the French Massif central soon after gaining independence from the hacking platform.
It is the first time that we observe this dispersing movements so early in the life of bearded vultures. We think Durzon followed some griffon vultures to the north, as often vultures from the Causses go there to feed in a wolf park (Parc aux Loups de Sainte-Lucie), near Saint-Léger-de-Peyre in Lozère. Those days there were strong southerly winds, so Durzon then continued north towards the Puy-de-Dôme and La Loire – interestingly, a black vulture from the Causses and one bearded vulture released this year in the Baronnies, the female Pro Natura, were in the area as well.
But Durzon continued north, towards Reims and the Belgian border (see map). It spent a night in a military site, before flying all the way to northern Germany, where he was seen in a forested area.
Because he looked weakened, it was then decided it should be recaptured to minimize any potential problems, so the bird was eventually captured close to Hannover, on the 24th of July. After spending one week in a wildlife rehabilitation center (Wildtier- und Artenschutzstation e.V., www.wildtierstation.de, see photo), Durzon was then collected by the team of the LPO Grands Causses and brought back to where he was first released. The second release was on the 2nd. August.
Following its re-release, Durzon has been staying in the Grands Causses, and has been behaving naturally.
You can read an account of the release of the 4 birds this year in the Grands Causses in the document below (in French).