Visitors to the Écrins National Park (France) were excited to spot a female Griffon vulture from the Balkans soaring in the skies at the beginning of June - one that has traveled quite a few kilometers in the last few years.
From Spain to Bulgaria – and back to the Alps
In 2014 this female was transferred from Extremadura in Spain to Bulgaria in efforts to restore the species to the Balkan Mountains as part of the LIFE Vultures Return in Bulgaria. The bird had been found weakened in western Iberia, and entered a rehabilitation center, and then, rather than being released in Spain, it was sent to the Balkans to help with the vulture conservation programmes there.
More than 250 griffon vultures have been released in the central Balkan montains, both wild birds from rehabilitation centers in Spain and captive-bred, to help restore the species - as a result, it is now breeding again in several sites in central Bulgaria. Young birds – the most common entering rehabilitation centers in Spain, do tend to disperse, and several of the birds released in Bulgaria have wandered quite a lot - like this one.
After being released into the wild in June 2016 this female traveled extensively around the Balkans, and was spotted in Serbia (September 2016, Uvac) and Croatia (Kričke, Drniš) in May 2017. Last summer she was seen at a feeding station in the Italian Dolomites (June 2017), and then it was seen in the Gorges du Verdon (south France) in November 17 - now it is in the south east of France in the Écrins National Park.
The Alps is the natural bridge between the large griffon vulture population in western Europe (Portugal, Spain and France) and the recovering, but still small population in the Balkans. Other griffons released in Bulgaria travelled west, but we also have evidence of Spanish-ringed griffons going all the way to Bulgaria – on their own.
Vulture conservation is indeed an international affair.