Residents of Carcassonne in southern France were shocked during their morning commutes back in September as an unexpected visitor decided to make a temporary home on a roundabout right in the middle of town, a cinereous vulture. Thanks to the LPO Aude, the visitor is now back to full health and soaring in the skies again.
Looking after the rare visitor
It was clear from where the bird had chosen to rest that it was a young and inexperienced individual, likely exhausted. Agents from Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux Aude were called to the scene. The bird was promptly recovered and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, Centre Régional de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage in Villeveyrac. At the centre the young bird was examined and was found to have a very low weight of just 4.1kg. The young bird hadn’t suffered any injuries but was exhausted from hunger, and it also had no markings or tags suggesting it was a wildborn bird, possibly from the reintroduced population in the Grand Causses.
Returning the bird to the wild
After a period of rehabilitation, the young bird, now with a healthy weight, was returned to the wild at the end of October in the Corbières Massif region of the French pre-Pyrenees. Before being released the bird was ringed and tagged with a GPS satellite transmitter to help monitor its movements funded by the MAVA Foundation.
Yves Roullaud, project manager of the Aude LPO, does not hide his enthusiasm:
"With this beacon we will be able to follow him in the long term. He is a young vulture of the year, it is still too early to know if it is a male or a female, but in four years it will be of reproductive age. Now we hope it will enjoy it here and settle in the Corbières!"
Cinereous vultures in France
Cinereous Vultures went extinct in France more than 100 years ago, but a reintroduction project started in the early 90s in the Grands Causses. 53 individuals were released at the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park between 1992 and 2004, birds that were from the wild that were rescued at rehabilitation centres in Spain and also captive breed. Following the success of this project, in 2004 a second reintroduction project began at two other release sites, in the southern Alps in the Regional Natural Parks of Baronnies provençales and Gorges du Verdon. The objectives of these reintroduction programmes is to release 50 birds per site to create viable populations. To date 36 birds have been released at Gorge du Verdon and 45 at Baronnies. During an annual census in 2018 more than 37 breeding pairs of Cinereous Vultures were counted at the three release sites in France, and the species has now been firmly re-established.
Even with a growing population the cinereous vulture is one of the most endangered birds in France. The documents below will provide more information about the cinereous vulture in France.