For the second year in a row, the young Cinereous Vulture Riga released in Bulgaria travelled to Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria to spend the summer.
Releasing Riga in Bulgaria
Riga is a female captive-bred Cinereous Vulture that hatched in May 2018 in Riga Zoo, Latvia, and was donated to the Vultures Back to LIFE project, becoming a valuable part of the efforts for the restoration of the species in Bulgaria. Riga, together with the Cinereous Vultures Boyan and Ostrava were placed in an artificial nest near the town of Kotel to acclimatise to the surrounding environment before fledging. The birds were fed and monitored without human contact by the dedicated staff from Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna and the Green Balkans until they fledged, and were the very first Cinereous Vultures released by the hacking method in the Eastern Balkan Mountains in 2018.
Riga's exciting travels
Riga was the last of the three to leave the nest and surprised us all, heading north almost straight away, reaching as far as the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria. This part of the Alps is picturesque and holds a breeding pair of Bearded Vultures and some passing Griffon Vultures, yet Cinereous Vultures are a particularly rare sight, and her presence raised a lot of interest. Despite being one of her kind, Riga liked the site and stayed for two months, finally heading south and reaching as far as the southernmost parts of the Peloponnesus and the island of Kythira. The bird spent the winter of 2019-2020 in Greece but visited Bulgaria on several occasions. In April 2020, she even returned to her "hatching site" near Kotel, but then headed north to Romania, quickly returning south and visiting the other vulture adaptation aviary in Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, Northwestern Bulgaria. Then, she passed by Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia to finally reach…the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria.
The transmitter she carries on her back regularly sends an update on her location, so our Austrian colleagues are also able to follow her flight. Furthermore, the bird has been seen several times and was even photographed on the territory of the park. Richard Straub even managed to photograph an incredible fight between Riga and Alexa – the female Bearded Vulture from the local breeding pair.
We are excited to see where Riga travels to next and are glad that a team of the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria are looking after the bird in Austria.
Source: Green Balkans
Vultures Back to LIFE
Led by the wildlife conservation charity Green Balkans, with activities also implemented by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, and bringing together partners from Bulgaria, Spain and Germany, Vultures Back to LIFE aims to reintroduce the cinereous or Eurasian black vulture to Bulgaria. The team will transfer and release around 60 birds, some from captive-breeding, but mostly coming from wildlife rehabilitation centers in Extremadura (Spain) into the wild in Bulgaria as well as creating supplementary feeding stations and improving populations of wild herbivores, improving the nesting conditions and creating artificial nest sites and tackling some of the major threats to vultures in the country such as insulating electricity pylons and illegal use of poison in the nature.