In 2019, 57 territories of Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) were occupied in the Alps. Out of these, 15 were in Italy: nine in the Stelvio National Park and in the Venosta Valley, five in the Aosta Valley and the Gran Paradiso National Park and one in Province of Turin in the Lanzo Valleys. In the latter territory, the local pair successfully reproduced in 2019, with their chick fledging on 18 August 2019. This event represents the first successful reproduction in Piedmont since the beginning of the international reintroduction project, which started in 1976, with the first release of captive-bred vultures taking place in 1986.
Bearded Vulture reintroduction in the Alps
The Bearded Vulture disappeared from the Alps after it was hunted and poisoned to extinction, with the last individual shot in 1913 at Aosta Valley. Following this, there were some alleged observations of the species recorded between 1924 and 1930. The Vulture Conservation Foundation and its partners began a reintroduction project in the 1970s based on captive breeding to bring the species back to the region, with the first releases to the wild taking place in 1986 in Austria. Since then, the first successful nesting of the species took place in 1997 in Haute-Savoie, France, and a year later in Italy in the Stelvio National Park. In the Western Italian Alps, the first successful breeding took place in 2012 in Aosta Valley.
Bearded Vulture breeding in Italy
In 2019 there were 57 Bearded Vulture territories in the Alps, distributed across Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy (Lauper, 2019). Out of these, 15 were in Italy, and more precisely 9 in the Stelvio National Park and the Vinschgau Valley, 5 in the Aosta Valley and the Gran Paradiso National Park and 1 in the Province of Turin in the Lanzo Valleys. In the latter, the first sightings of the species dates back to 2006 and only in September 2015, the first pair formed in the region was present for eight months until April 2016; after this date, the couple was not sighted again.
In May 2017, a new pair was observed at the Natural Park of the Maritime Alps. In the following weeks, both individuals were observed exhibiting breeding behaviour in the nest situated at about 2,500 m above sea level in the Comunal territory of Usseglio. However, on 10 June that year, it was confirmed that the besting was unsuccessful. The following winter (2017-2018), due to the heavy snowfall, it was not possible to monitor the pair and its nesting site from vantage points. From 4 February to 7 April 2018, the pair could be observed again. On 25 April, there was no nestling present, suggesting that their breeding attempt was unsuccessful. In addition, in May and June 2018, there were no observations of the pair in this area. In September 2018, the pair was observed frequenting the nest area again and, after comparing the photographic documentation, it was noted that the adult specimen (the male) was the same as in 2017 while the other (the female) was a sub-adult and therefore had changed.
First successful Bearded Vulture breeding in Piedmont
The pair (Avril and Bellaco) and the fledgling (Belavri) (c) Maurizio Chiereghin
The next breeding season, between October 2018 and January 2019, the pair exhibited several breeding behaviours including carrying nesting material. Shortly after, the incubation started. Subsequently, on 13 April, a chick hatched and on 18 August at 8:45 a.m., the nestling took its first flight! This individual was officially called Belavrì (W288) and was observed several times in flight together with the two adults in the months following November 2019. This reproduction is the first successful reproduction in Piedmont since the beginning of the international reintroduction project of the species!
Chiereghin, M and Sartirana, F. (2020), Prima nidificazione con successo di Gipeto (Gypaetus barbatus) in Piemonte dall’inizio del progetto di reintroduzione della specie sulle Alpi. Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia. 89.https://doi.org/10.4081/rio.2019.439
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