Earlier this month a team from the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and from Green Balkans visited the Herdade da Contenda, a hunting estate, also a Natura 2000 site, in the municipality of Moura, southeast Portugal, to visit several nest platforms put there for the cinereous vulture as part of the LIFE-Nature Project ‘Enhancing Habitat for the Iberian Lynx and Black Vulture in the Southeast of Portugal’. The Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) led this project in the area, and among other actions managed to establish a network of feeding sites (10) and to construct artificial nesting platforms for cinereous vultures (30 were installed) – this led to the recolonization of the area by the species, who bred again in southern Portugal.
Cinereous vultures became extinct as breeding species in Portugal in the 1970s, mostly due to the use of poisoned carcasses targeting unwanted predators. An increasing population in Spain saw the species first return to breed in central Portugal (Tejo Internacional) in 2010 (where now there is a small colony of about 10 pairs), and then in north-eastern Portugal (one single pair). And in 2015 the species recolonised Herdade da Contenda, and has bred ever since – this year 3-4 pairs started to breed and eventually 1 young fledged.
Black vultures nest in nearby Extremadura and Andalucía in Spain – where their populations have been increasing to reach maximums in recent years - and they forage extensively across southern Portugal, but this recolonization is nonetheless remarkable as this species is extremely faithful to existing colonies, and takes a lot of time to establish new colonies elsewhere.
The construction of these artificial nest for cinereous vultures were the main objective of our recent visit, as this action is also part of the Vultures Back to LIFE project LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649 Project “Bright Future for Black Vulture in Bulgaria” , that aims to reintroduce this species in Bulgaria. This project includes the construction of 60 artificial nests close to the cinereous vultures’ release sites in Stara Planina Mt., action to be implemented by our colleagues from Green Balkans.
According to the Portuguese experience, the cinereous vultures started to use these artificial nests installed by LPN only four years after, but now there are 4 breeding pairs in Herdade da Contenda, where 12 artificial nests were installed. During our visit, we had opportunity to see one cinereous vulture pair using one of the artificial nests, as the breeding season is starting.
This was extremely useful visit to see on the ground the success of this conservation measure and get more knowledge about the construction of the artificial platforms and selection of the trees. The VCF would like to thank the colleagues from LPN and the staff of Herdade da Contenda for organizing this visit and sharing their experience!