The International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network's 2019 Annual Report is now published, giving an overview of Bearded Vulture releases, reproduction, monitoring and mortality in the Alps and other European regions during 2019.
Releases in Europe
We released 22 juvenile captive-bred Bearded Vultures across Europe in 2019, thanks to the high breeding success in the captive breeding programme (EEP) that year, resulting in the highest ever number of released birds! These included 11 Bearded Vultures released in France (2 Corsica, 4 in Vercors and Baronnies, 5 in the Massif Central) and 11 in Spain (2 in Maestrazgo, 9 in the Sierra de Cazorla, Andalusia). All of the released birds have been individually marked with rings, bleached feathers and GPS-tags in order to follow the life-history and movements.
Reproduction in the Alps, Massif Central and on Corsica
In the Alps, there was a new record of 39 wild-hatched fledglings during the 2019 breeding season (14 France, 12 Switzerland, 10 Italy, 3 Austria). This outcome represents an overall productivity of 72%, with 58 occupied territories and 50 clutches. Just like in the previous year, the productivity was the highest in the north-western Alps (76%), followed by the central Alps (70%) and was lower in the south-western and eastern Alps (67%). For 7 out of 50 breeding territories, it was the first successful reproduction. For Lechtal in Austria, it was the first and at the same time northernmost reported breeding attempt in the Alps in the reintroduction project.
On Corsica, there was no successful breeding out of the 5 occupied territories. Breeding was reported in 4 of them, resulting in 4 clutches and 1 dead hatchling in Asco. There was some good news, however. Two eggs were extracted in the Bonifatu territory, and both chicks hatched (one male, one female), entering the captive breeding population to contribute to the conservation of the species in Corsica and across Europe.
In the Massif Central, nesting behaviour from two released male birds (Layrou and Adonis) has been observed for the second consecutive year. It still remains the first occupied territory in this area.
Observations reported to the IBM-network
As most of the population of Bearded Vultures are not marked with a GPS tag, visual observations are an essential part of the IBM. In 2019 a total of 1,875 verified observations from 6 countries were registered in the IBM database. Just under half these observations could be related to known individuals, 44 releases and 9 wild-hatched birds (32 males and 17 females). When combined with the data from our flagship participatory science event the International Observation Days, where members of the public join us in the mountains to count Bearded Vultures for two weeks in October, 160 Bearded Vulture individuals (Alps = 118, Pyrenees = 11, Corsica = 14, Spain = 17) were identified over the year.
Using this data, the IBM Network estimates the sizes of the Bearded Vulture populations around 256-344 individuals for the Alpine range, 4-5 in France's Massif Central, 5-7 in Aude in the French Pyrenees, 32-40 in Spain (without Pyrenees), 0 in Bulgaria and 6-11 in Morocco. To help estimate the population of the species in these regions (except Morocco), you can join this year's International Observation Day on 3 October 2020.
Bearded Vulture mortality
Unfortunately, in 2019, 4 released birds died (Buisson, Europe & Monna in France; Siles in Spain) died and an additional 4 wild-hatched birds lost their lives (GT061 in Italy, Tantermozza in Switzerland, Bonifatu2018 in France, and Gea in Spain). In at least three cases, anthropogenic factors were responsible for the cause of death (powerlines, shooting). Higher mortality in the first few years is a well- known phenomenon, and in 7 out of 9 cases, the birds were in their first (5) or second (2) calendar year. Furthermore, the weakened juvenile bird Verdi in Spain was recovered in time, but it suffered damages to the feathers and the continued signs of weakness lead to the decision to keep it in captivity and not release it again.
You can download the complete report below.
Get involved in the IOD this year to count Bearded Vultures in the wild and help estimate the population of the species across different European regions. Learn how to participate here.
The International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network
The International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM) is a unique international collaboration led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation between national & natural parks and non-governmental organisations to coordinate the monitoring activities for European Bearded Vulture populations. Through this network, data about the Bearded Vulture in Europe is collected, shared and made available to everyone working for the conservation of the species. The IBM-network also uses this data and comes together to discuss conservation strategies and priorities for this species on an international level. There are currently 16 partners and two associated organisations part of the IBM-network.