Griffon Vulture in Cyprus crashes with a car — the bird's fate remains a mystery

Feathers retrieved from the scene (c) GFS
Feathers retrieved from the scene (c) GFS

 

A few days ago a Griffon Vulture collided with the windshield of a car in Cyprus. This type of incident, although quite unusual in most of Europe, occurs from time-to-time in Spain, and quite frequently in Africa and Asia when vultures feed on carcasses by the road or train lines, often leading to roadkills and train collisions.

 

Griffon Vulture collision with car in Cyprus

On the morning of Thursday, 17 September, an unusual car accident occurred in Cyprus. While a man was on his way to work with his colleagues, driving in the Limassol-Paphos highway, a large bird that he believed to be an eagle coming from the opposite direction crashed into his car's windshield. Thankfully, all the passengers in the car were safe and well, but the bird immediately took off and disappeared. Agents of the Game and Fauna Service visited the scene and collected feathers to identify the bird, which turned out to be an adult Griffon Vulture (see cover image). The agents did not manage to recover the bird, and the prognosis seems bleak looking at the damage of the car. The LIFE with Vultures project team also got involved, visiting areas frequented by the vultures to search for the injured bird, but with no luck. There is some concern for the parents of one of the two fledglings as they have not been sighted with their offspring, but it could easily be another adult individual. The project team continues to monitor the situation for further developments. We hope the vulture survives, especially considering the threatened status of the species in the country, being on the verge of extinction – the survival of adult individuals is especially critical for the persistence of the population.

 

Griffon Vultures in Cyprus

AAJ is a member of one of the breeding pairs in Cyprus © Louis Phipps / VCF
AAJ is a member of one of the breeding pairs in Cyprus © Louis Phipps / VCF

During the 1960s, the population consisted of at least 100 individuals. Numbers declined rapidly since then, with an estimated 20 pairs by the early 1990s and just 8 – 10 pairs by the turn of the century. Today, the Griffon Vulture is in the brink of extinction from Cyprus with only around 20 birds remaining, out of which, the LIFE with Vultures project identified three breeding pairs during the 2020 breeding season. One of the main reasons behind the decrease has been the reduction in food availability due to the reduction in extensive livestock farming (free grazing) and the introduction of legislation that requires the removal of carcasses from farms - as Griffon Vultures feed exclusively on dead animals they struggle to find enough food in the modern landscape. Another critical threat to the population is poisoning from the illegal use of poisoned baits aimed at the extermination of foxes and stray dogs. For the period 1996-2020, 43 confirmed Griffon Vulture poisoning incidents have been recorded and another ten vultures died with a possible cause of death being poisoning. 

 

LIFE with Vultures

 

LIFE with Vultures is a targeted conservation project for the protection of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus. In this four-year endeavor (2019-2023), BirdLife Cyprus, the Game and Fauna ServiceTerra Cypria – The Cyprus Conservation Foundation and the Vulture Conservation Foundation have joined forces to tackle the main threats facing the Griffon Vulture and prevent Cyprus’ most threatened bird of prey from going extinct. The project has a 1,375,861 Euro budget and is co-funded (60%) by the EU’s LIFE programme

 

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