It's that time of the year again when Egyptian Vultures start their long journey from Africa back to Europe. Thanks to the LIFE Rupis project, we can track the movements of currently three Egyptian Vultures from the Douro since they are equipped with GPS transmitters. We have been closely following the movements of Faia on her way back to Spain and yesterday on 10 March she finally crossed the Strait of Gibraltar.
Egyptian Vulture Faia
Faia is a female Egyptian Vulture that was captured at the Escalhão supplementary feeding site in June 2017, and bred successfully in the Águeda valley, on the Spanish side of the international river.
Migration of Faia 2019/2020
Faia had left the Douro canyon on 6 September. She flew over the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco on 9 September and was making good progress heading south.
Just like in previous years we lost track of her when she left Morocco and was entering Algeria, flying into an area with no GSM coverage in the desert – and we were without notice from her for since mid September 2019. Thankfully, she re-surfaced in Mali just south of the Mauritanian border. GSM coverage is fragmented in the desert, and the experience that we have with the birds tagged in LIFE Rupis is that we often are without notice for some days, a few weeks or even months.
She wintered in Mali for six months, where there is plenty of food for her to feast on and little to no disturbance by humans. After many months there, she started her long journey back home to reach her nesting grounds. On 4 March, our team noticed that Faia was back on the move and on her way home! She reached Morocco on 5 March and spent some days there until she crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on 9 March and reaches Spain. She is already making good progress and we continue to monitor her movements closely awaiting her return to the Douro. Let's hope she reaches her nesting grounds safely and that she will successfully breed this time around as well!
The Egyptian Vultures are ready to return to Europe and you can follow the movements of some of the tagged birds by visiting the VCF's online public maps.
The LIFE Rupis conservation project, led by Portuguese wildlife organisation Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), and funded by the European Union's LIFE Fund and the MAVA Foundation, is working in the cross-border Douro region of Spain and Portugal to protect and strengthen the populations of Egyptian vultures and Bonelli´s eagle. With around 135 breeding pairs, the region has one of the largest population of Egyptian vultures in Europe. Creating a network of feeding stations, improving habitat and nesting sites as well as tackling the major threats of electrocution from electricity pylons and illegal wildlife poisoning, the LIFE Rupis project will strengthen the population and improve breeding rates.