Live nest cameras: a peek inside the lives of three Griffon Vulture breeding pairs in Israel

With the help of special nest cameras, all vulture lovers can watch the entire nesting and incubation process of three Griffon Vulture breeding pairs in the Negev Mountains of Israel! 

 

This is all thanks to the coordinated efforts and collaboration among the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

 

Pair K74 and T49

The female K74 and male T49 is a new pair for the Israeli Raptor Nest Cam project with a significant age gap between them – ‘love’ has no boundaries! The Male T49 hatched in 2013 in southern Israel and was marked the same year it hatched. In contrast, the female K74 is at least ten years older because she hatched in 2003 (the latest).

 

In this short video of the pair, you can see them bringing branches and carefully arranging them to construct their nest. You can also see the pair copulating on a couple of occasions. And then, on 29 December, K74 laid an egg as you can see at the video.

Last year, both pairs of Griffon Vultures filmed were incubating for about 53 days (plus or minus), so if this couple laid on 29 December, the chick is expected to hatch around 20 February, again more or less.

 

The pair have been taking care of their clutch for 29 days without any disturbance, but a couple of crows decided to break their peace. The unwanted visitors even tried to steal nesting material. The incubating vulture T49 did not particularly like this invasive presence and fought back, managing to banish one crow, but the other was brave and stubborn and not alarmed by the griffon's threats. But eventually, the vultures' efforts prevailed, and the crows left him in peace. 

To learn more about the life of the pair K74 and T49, you can watch the live broadcast here.

 

Pair K72 and K53

The well-known and beloved pair K72 and K53 that was broadcast successfully rearing a chick last season (2019) built an impressive new nest!

 

 

The former pair of Griffon Vultures showed up in front of the nest cameras at the end of November. They did not waste a single second and very quickly began their courtship and nesting. The frequent matings started in early December, and towards 10 December 2019, they quickly started to build a new (and quite large) nest with an astonishing determination, until they laid an egg on it on the morning of 29 December.

Incidentally, the laying occurred about 12 hours before the laying of the new couple K74 and T49.

 

To learn more about the life of pair K72 and K53, you can watch the live broadcast here.

 

Pair K70 and T99

The nest is the same nest that was broadcasted last year, and the couple that occupied it this year is the same couple that managed to breed a chick live during the previous season.

 

Like the other pairs, these old pair appeared in front of the cameras at the end of November but did not show signs of breeding behaviour immediately. They started the courtship, mating and nest building only toward the end of December.

 

Then, in the evening hours of 19 January 2020, or early morning hours of 20 January, they laid their only egg.

To learn more about the life of pair K70 and T99, you can watch the live broadcast here.

 

So, this year, it seems that viewers will be able to watch live broadcasts from the nests of three Griffon Vulture breeding pairs in Israel! Let's hope that all three pairs will succeed in breeding healthy chicks that will strengthen the Griffon Vulture population in Israel.

 

Griffon Vultures in Israel

Griffon Vulture in flight (c) David Edge
Griffon Vulture in flight (c) David Edge

Sadly Israel's Griffon Vulture population is in trouble. In the past 50 years, the numbers of Griffon Vultures in Israel is steadily declining. Until the late 1950's hundreds of pairs of Griffon Vultures bred all over the country from the extreme north to the Eilat Mountains. In the early 2000's only around 120 pairs bred and today less than 60 pairs remain. Today the majestic Griffon Vulture is critically endangered (CR) in Israel and other places around the eastern Mediterranean. This is drastic decrease is a result of similar poisoning incidents, usually caused by farmers to protect their livestock from predators. The latest mass poisoning occurred in May 2019, killing eight vultures and nearly wiping out their population in Golan Heights. The worst instance of poisoning took place in 1998 when about 40 vultures were found dead after eating the carcasses of poisoned cattle or wild animals. 

 

In efforts to reverse the decline wildlife organisations in Israel have been carrying out projects to boost the local population include transporting and releasing birds from Spain where the Griffon Vulture population is increasing. However, this recent incident will severely damage those efforts, and Griffon Vulture is dangerously close to becoming extinct in Israel.

 

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