Participate in the annual Alpine Griffon Vulture count on 22 August 2020

Griffon Vulture in flight (c) Nello Petitio
Griffon Vulture in flight (c) Nello Petitio

 

The annual Alpine Griffon Vulture summer survey will take place on Saturday 22 August for the 10th consecutive year! If you want to spend a day in the mountains observing these magnificent species, join the count to help monitor the birds across the vast region.

 

Griffon Vultures in the Alps

With the exception of small colonies in Austria and Italy, Griffon Vultures have been absent from the Alps for decades. As part of the French national action plan for Griffon Vultures, a programme began in the 1990s to reintroduce the species to Pre-Alps (Baronnies, Vercors and Verdon) and the Grands Causses. Today the population is firmly re-established in the regions and is a part of the important corridor that connects the western populations in the Pyrenees, Spain and Portugal with the eastern populations in the Balkans. 

Griffon Vulture in flight (c) Nello Petitio
Griffon Vulture in flight (c) Nello Petitio

The Alps is also a regular summering destination for young Griffon Vultures from both the western and eastern populations. The Iberian Peninsula is home to the largest population of Griffon Vultures in Europe, and during the first couple of years after fledging their nests, their wanderings take them to the Alps. During the summer months, the birds take advantage of the ideal foraging conditions there, when many livestock go up to the summer alpages, and there is plenty of food. In the last few years, a regular pendulum movement between Iberia, southern France and the pre-Alps has appeared, leading to a summering seasonal population of non-breeding Griffon Vultures, particularly in the westernmost Alps (France-Italy).

 

Participate in the Alpine Griffon Vulture Count

The return of these large scavenging birds created a new situation that soon made it necessary to gain a better understanding of their numbers, movements and behaviour during their summer stay in the Alps.

To do so, our colleagues at the Envergures Alpines Association based in the French Alps are coordinating the annual Griffon Vulture Count. The survey has been running since 2010 and is a simultaneous count on one day in the Alps from the Rhone in the west to Italy, and from the Mediterranean in the south to Lake Léman in the north, with nearly 100 observation stations. The birds are counted at their roosts at the end of each day in mid-August when the birds are peaking in the mountains before they disperse from the area. 

 

This time the Alpine Griffon Vulture Count is taking place on Saturday 22 August 2020. The organizers are planning the count with the COVID-19 precautions in mind, and so far, remain optimistic that the count will take place.

 

The Envergures Alpines Association are coordinating the count and are currently compiling local coordinators. If you are interested in participating the team would love to hear from you. You can also contact envergures.alpines@gmail.com for how to get involved.

 

Results from the Alpine Griffon Vulture Count 2019

The 2019 count was one of the biggest to date with 125 observation stations and over 300 volunteers and staff counting birds at their roosts at the end of the day, between 4 pm and nightfall. In total, participants observed 2312 Griffon Vultures. In addition to the Griffon Vultures, observers counted 19 Cinereous Vultures, 36 Bearded Vultures and 11 Egyptian Vultures.

 

In previous years, the count observed 1873 Griffon Vulture in 2018, 2459 in 2017, 1732 in 2015 and 1682 in 2014.

 

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