This year vulture experts and the rewilding team in the Rhodope Mountains counted 73 hatched vultures within the regular monitoring programme of the only indigenous griffon vulture population in Bulgaria.
In May, experts from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) visited all griffon vulture nesting sites in the eastern part of the Rhodopes Mountains.
Last year, experts and volunteers counted 77 chicks, of which 73 griffon vultures successfully made their first flights. Only a few years earlier, in 2016, 51 chicks hatched and 50 made left the family nest. “Last four years we are witnessing a positive trend and a serious increase in both indicators as a result of the growing griffon vulture population in the area, “said Dobromir Dobrev of BSPB. Among the birds there are pairs that have nested again. Therefore, the total number of hatched chicks this year will be known after all nests are inspected and some revisited again in the coming weeks.
The young vultures hatch in late March and early April. For almost four months, the parents are constantly caring for the new generation. It takes as long as the offspring grow enough to start the first flight experiments. In mid-summer, small vultures are no longer so small. Although they are only a few months old, they are fully developed and weigh as much as their elderly parents – about 7 kg, sometimes more.
Vultures are a permanent and nomadic species. Young birds roam until about the fifth year, when they reach maturity. During this time, they can move long distances from the hatching sites. These are critical moments in the life of birds, when nearly 70% of these vultures die in this early phase of their lives.
The new LIFE project “Conservation of Black and Griffon vultures in the cross-border Rhodope Mountains” focuses on the recovery and further expansion of the black and griffon vulture populations in this part of the Balkan region, mainly by improving natural prey availability and reducing mortality factors such as poaching, poisoning and impact of power lines.
The LIFE Vultures project was developed by Rewilding Europe in partnership with Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds/Birdlife Bulgaria, WWF Greece, Vulture Conservation Foundation and Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece, and is funded by the European Commission and Fondation Segré.