Every year, Egyptian Vultures make a round trip of around 7,000km from their breeding areas in Europe to their winter grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. We recently reported the migration of Britango and Faia, and now, more LIFE Rupis tagged birds reached Africa! Where are they now?
Britango is a juvenile bird that was fitted with a transmitter in the nest this summer. After the first detour to Sagres, it crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on 3 September and made good progress through Morocco and Mauritania, reaching the Sahel on 11 September, covering 2,200 km in 8 days.
Faia is a breeding adult. She departed the breeding range on 6 September, almost a week later than 2018. The last location was received in northern Algeria on 11 September. She is likely in an area without GSM coverage, so there is no data transmission - the same happened during the last two years, with several months of no data. Faia is probably already in the winter range on the Mali-Mauritania border.
Batuecas A and Rupis
Batuecas A is a breeding adult that was tagged in Saloro. Rupis is in its sixth calendar year and is considered a sub-adult.
Batuecas A and Rupis departed on 18 September, a few days earlier than in 2018. Rupis stopped off in a favoured roosting/feeding area in the Caceres livestock farming area in Extremadura, also visited regularly by non-migratory third calendar year Batuecas P - in 2018 Rupis spent several days there before moving south, but this year it stopped for only 2 days. This stop meant that Batuecas A crossed the Strait two days before Rupis, on the 21 September. Rupis crossed the Strait on the 23 September (compared to 02 October in 2018) and was last recorded close to the Atlas mountains. Batuecas A is making good progress south, towards Mauritania. Rupis, Batuecas A and Faia all travelled 400 km per day after crossing the Strait, compared to 275 km per day for the juvenile Britango. This slower speed and less direct route on the first autumn migration is typical for juvenile Egyptian Vultures, as shown in the recently published study on Egyptian Vulture variability.
It will be interesting to see if the vultures use the same areas as during the previous winter periods. Once again, the tracking data provided some very useful insights into the movement patterns of the Egyptian Vultures from the Douro region, potentially informing future conservation actions. For example, in addition to identifying favoured wintering areas in the Sahel, the maps show the restricted and overlapping migration routes close to the Strait of Gibraltar. Although this concentration of migrating birds makes them vulnerable to certain threats such as collisions with power lines or wind turbines, accurately mapping their migration routes could help to implement effective mitigation measures.
The LIFE Rupis conservation project, led by Portuguese wildlife organisation Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), and funded by the European Union's LIFE Fund and the MAVA Foundation, is working in the cross-border Douro region of Spain and Portugal to protect and strengthen the populations of Egyptian vultures and Bonelli´s eagle. With around 135 breeding pairs, the region has one of the largest population of Egyptian vultures in Europe. Creating a network of feeding stations, improving habitat and nesting sites as well as tackling the major threats of electrocution from electricity pylons and illegal wildlife poisoning, the LIFE Rupis project will strengthen the population and improve breeding rates.