Andalusia is now home to yet another Bearded Vulture! On 12 June, the young Bearded Vulture named Alejandra was released in Cazorla as part of the reintroduction project in Andalusia, led by the Junta de Andalucía in collaboration with the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF).
Releasing Bearded Vulture Alejandra
Another young Bearded Vulture coming from a captive-breeding background was released in Cazorla. The vulture named Alejandra hatched in the Vallcalent Specialised Breeding Centre, managed by the VCF.
Ahead of the bird's release, some of its feathers were bleached and it was also equipped with a GPS tag for identification and monitoring purposes. On Friday 12 June, a team of the Junta de Andalucía hiked at the hacking cave in Cazorla and released Alejandra. The newly released bird joined the other three birds that were released in May — Samburu, who is actually its biological sibling, as well as Curro and Cabrero.
We release Bearded Vultures using the 'hacking method', which entails placing young birds at an artificial nest in suitable habitat to acclimatize to the natural environment before they take their first flights. The hacking method is more ore less like the “natural” way of fledging. The role of the parents at that time is the protection against predators, food supply and social contacts. This method substitutes these functions to a big part. The construction of the platform does not allow terrestrial predators to reach the birds, which prevents any possible injuries, the animal keepers provide food without any human contact, and socialization is possible since two or more nestlings are usually released together. Furthermore, we release the captive-bred birds at an average age of 90 days old, when the birds are able to eat alone, are strong enough to defend themselves against other birds of prey and are young enough to recognize the release site as their rearing place. This way, the nestlings are able to associate the place where they are released with the area of hatching so that when they reach breeding age, which is around 8-10 years old, they select these places to breed. When Bearded Vultures are young, they tend to travel vast distances and explore new regions, but once they become sexually mature, they tend to select areas close to where they hatched to breed.
Junta de Andalucía is now monitoring the released bird to see how it is adapting to its new home. The project team will continue to keep an eye on it after it fledges by tracking its movements thanks to its GPS tag.
Bearded Vulture reintroduction in Andalusia
Bearded Vultures went extinct in Andalusia in 1986 mainly due to direct persecution, wildlife poisoning and human disturbance at the nesting sites. To bring them back, Junta de Andalucía, and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) started a reintroduction project in 1996, and the former Fundación Gypaetus was also created to manage the project. Since the first releases in 2006 and with the release of eight individuals this year, 71 Bearded Vultures will be released in Andalusia by July this year in the provinces of Jaén and Granada. Thanks to tackling threats and releasing birds, the population of the species is gradually increasing. There are currently three Bearded Vulture pairs and 43 confirmed individuals in Andalusia. Hopefully, the chicks that hatched in the wild this season will survive and also stay in the region.