As Griffon Vultures are busy incubating their clutches across Europe our colleagues at Bulgarian wildlife organisation Green Balkans have reported the preliminary results of the Griffon Vulture breeding season in the country's reintroduced colonies.
Reintroducing Griffon Vultures
There were thought to be just 28 breeding pairs left in Bulgaria at the end of the 1970s Rhodope mountains. However, thanks to significant conservation efforts since 2010 to reintroduce the species to the Bulgaria as part of several project such as the European Union LIFE funded project Vultures Return which ran between 2010 and 2015 and saw 210 birds released in four sites the Balkan Mountains that have successfully formed breedings colonies in the Eastern Balkan Mountains and in the Western Balkan Mountains at the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park. LIFE for Kresna Gorge reintroduced Griffon Vultures to Kresna Gorge in the the south west of the country with 28 birds being released between 2012 and 2016.
Breeding season reports from Bulgaria
Nesting pairs of Griffon Vultures at the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park (c) Green Balkans
Once home to thriving colonies, Griffon Vultures have been absent from the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park in the Western Balkan Mountains for over 50 years 2010. Since then the population in the Park has been increasing with the first successful breeding in 2015. This year observations of the colonies in the Park have revealed a third colony has been formed 14 pairs are currently incubating clutches with four more exhibiting breeding behaviour, a great result so far in the breeding season!
Meanwhile in the Eastern Balkan Mountains there are around 12-20 breeding pairs of Griffon Vultures. Three separate colonies were formed in the Kotlenska Planina, with 12 nesting couples and another seven exhibiting nesting activity. Another pair is exhibiting breeding activity in the area of the Sinite Kamani Nature Park. Unfortunately due to severe weather conditions another three pairs in the region were forced to abandon their nests, however, as it is relatively still early in the breeding season these pairs may yet breed again.
In the Kresna Gorge, where the population is still recovering from a devastating poisoning incident in 2017, the pair that laid their clutch early in the season were forced to abandon the nest as a result of the severe weather in the area in mid-February. Two other pairs are still exhibiting nesting behaviour but have yet to lay.
Reports from Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains
Our colleagues from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, as part of our LIFE Re-Vultures conservation project, have been closely observing the population of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and have estimated around 95 breeding pairs in the valley of the valley of the Arda River. This is one more pair than in 2018 and a significant increase on 2017 when only 86 pairs were recorded breeding.
The team will continue to monitor the progress of the birds in the region as other pairs may also begin breeding later in the breeding season. Meanwhile in the Greek portion of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains the number of breeding pairs have increased to eight from five in 2018, bringing the total breeding population in the cross border Eastern Rhodope Mountains to over 100.
These are preliminary results for the Griffon Vulture breeding season in Bulgaria, it certainly looks like that 2019 may be the first year that the number of breeding pairs passes the milestone of 150 pairs, a significant moment in vulture conservation in Bulgaria.
Griffon Vultures in Bulgaria
In Bulgaria the population declined through most of the 20th Century and was thought to be extinct in the country in the 1960s until the discovery in 1978 of 28 birds and one breeding pair in the Rhodope mountains. Significant conservation efforts by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, the Foundation for Wild Flora and Fauna and Green Balkans among other other partners, since 1989, has led to the slow increase of this population. Reintroduction projects from 2010 in historic areas where the Griffon Vulture has been found such as the Balkan Mountains and Kresna Gorge has seen the population in the country increase with the number of breeding pairs estimated at between 100 and 120.
Vultures Back to LIFE
Led by the wildlife conservation charity Green Balkans, with activities also implemented by theFund for Wild Flora and Fauna, and bringing together partners from Bulgaria, Spain and Germany, Vultures Back to LIFE aims to reintroduce the cinereous or Eurasian black vulture to Bulgaria. The team will transfer and release around 60 birds, some from captive-breeding, but mostly coming from wildlife rehabilitation centers in Extremadura (Spain) into the wild in Bulgaria as well as creating supplementary feeding stations and improving populations of wild herbivores, improving the nesting conditions and creating artificial nest sites and tackling some of the major threats to vultures in the country such as insulating electricity pylons and illegal use of poison in the nature.