The fledging season for our reintroduced bearded vultures is now coming to an end - after news last week of bearded vulture Alos fledging in Maestrazgo, Spain, we move to Switzerland with reports from the field of Fredueli making his first flight from the hacking cave in the Swiss Alps.
Fredueli along with Finja were two young bearded vulture that were released into a hacking nest in the Swiss Alps back at the beginning of June. Both birds were from the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network we coordinate, and were released by the Stiftung Pro Bartgeier at a Swiss Federal Wildlife Refuge Huetstock near Melchsee-Frutt.
Fredueli, the young male, had spent the last few days extensively training his flight muscles with flying exercises on the ground, becoming increasingly restless as the first rays of sun hit his hacking nest. After two misty and rainy days, it seemed that Fredueli might finally get to the blue sky for his first flight. Hitting his wings violently, he hopped around in the nest and was already 50cm off the ground. He made his first big jump and flew through the air for the first time in his life for about 6 seconds on Saturday 7 June. After a surprisingly clean landing in the meadow below the nest, Fredueli first walked up again on foot. He repeated this a total of three times on Saturday, flying for a few seconds and ended up very cleverly just above the nest on the rock face.
Bearded Vultures in Switzerland
The bearded vulture population in Switzerland is growing. Last year, 14 of the total of 31 bearded vultures hatched in wild nests across the Alps flew out of Switzerland. Since 2015, the releases in Switzerland take place in Central Switzerland and are mainly targeted to increase the genetic diversity of the Alpine population.
In the Alps the wild population of bearded vultures are breeding well since the Alps Reintroduction project began in 1986, with a sustainable demographic growth. Indeed the reintroductions could stop, if mortality does not increase by more than 1 bird per year, however, the genetic composition of the Alpine reintroduced population is still too small to avoid inbreeding in the long term.
All the birds reintroduced being originated from a small number of captive founder birds, the releases in the Alps are still continuing mostly to boost the genetic diversity – individuals released there are chosen to include rare genetic lines. As the chance to recruit into the breeding population is biggest in the central Alps, these rarer genetic types are released into the Swiss Alps. While the wild population is growing in the mountains of Grisons and Valais, bearded vultures are less common in Central Switzerland, so the recent release sites have been there.
Good luck Fredueli and we hope to hear more about your adventures soon!