Electrocution caused the death of a rare black vulture

16 March 2017

An adult black vulture was found dead due to collision against electric line, in mid-February, reported WWF Greece. The bird was found in Filiouri valley, study area of Life project, after a prompt call of the forest guard from the Sapes Forest Service.

The Rhodope Mountains are home to the only breeding colony of the black vulture in the Balkans; some 32–35 pairs breed yearly in the Dadia National Park in the Greek part of this mountain range. The number of breeding pairs has been stable or slightly declining over the past few years.

The black vulture was found close to pylons with high and medium electric voltage lines. The bird was half eaten by animals but the legs were untouched. This helped the team identify cause of the dead. The vulture was ringed in 2007 by WWF team as a small chick in it nest in Dadia National park. The area where the adult vulture was found is part of the wide foraging area with high number of livestock. Nearby is the village Nea Santa, a Karakatsan village where its inhabitants still support the livestock breeding.

The black vulture was found close to pylons with high and medium electric voltage lines.
The black vulture was found close to pylons with high and medium electric voltage lines.

One more collision incident of Black vulture on electrical cables. It is not the first time that a vulture died due to electrocution or collision. In the Thrace region alone local people have found dead 3 Black vultures, 3 Griffon vultures, 1 Golden Eagle, 1 Eagle owl, 1 Common buzzard and the incidents are increased. This mortality cause is difficult to be controlled as the majority of the electrical lines are over ground and few three-line cables have been replaced with the safer twisted cables. The raptors often run the risk of touching the electric wires when taking off a raptor lands or takes off. Another identified potential danger is the three-line cables as birds can get electrocuted while flying.

One solution to avoid bird electrocution/collision should be the replacement of the over ground lines with underground but unfortunately this is impossible due to huge logistic and construction cost. One effective solution should be the insulation of electrical wires and the bird diverters for the cables. Within the LIFE Vutures project insulators and bird diverters will be placed in pylons in Bulgaria. In the Greek part of Rhodopes-Thrace, insulation was implemented in 2016 at a small amount of pylons (51) in Dadia National Park supported by the LIFE “The return of Egyptian vulture”. This was just a beginning of one action that should be continued at the most important vulture areas of Thrace.

WWF Greece would like to thank Sapes Forest Service guards who contribute to the recording of the vultures’ mortality incidents and thus they help us to estimate the mortality causes.

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