First-Ever Live Griffon Vultures web Camera installed in Rhodope mountains

18 December 2017

In December team from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation placed a video camera in a potential Griffon Vulture nest which will enable us to monitor closely and in real time the everyday life of these rare birds.

Griffon Vultures are known to be caring parents, as both partners take turns when hatching the couple’s egg. During the hot summer days parents can spend hours spreading wings over the newly-hatched chicks, keeping shade on the little ones. We hope that we will be able to touch these intimate moments of Griffon Vultures in the coming months.

The nest’s spot was selected after visiting several potential locations. The camera operates on solar energy. It was carefully camouflaged with natural materials to resemble the surrounding rock  not to disturb the future “tenants”. Last year the camera-equipped nest was occupied by a breeding couple. Located the center of one of the major griffon vulture colonies in the Eastern Rhodopes,  the team’s hope is that the same or another pair of vultures will choose that nest and we will be able to witness the exciting events of the rare bird’s life. “An immature couple landed on the nest just a day after the camera was installed, which is a good indicator,” commented Volen Arkumarev from BSPB. However, this is not a guarantee that the nest will be occupied. Unlike the Egyptian vulture, which usually nests in the same nest for several consecutive years, the Griffon Vulture often changes its nests.

The camera was camouflaged with natural materials not to disturb the future "tenants".
The camera was camouflaged with natural materials not to disturb the future “tenants”.

Traditionally, couples start their wedding games in November-December, preparing their nests for the upcoming breeding season. Only in January, however, it will become clear whether we will be lucky and will be able to see some well hidden moment the life of a griffon vultures pair. Depending on the climate in the particular season, in the January-February period, the female lays an egg, which the two parents are hatching in turns for about two months.

Placing the camera was not an easy task, special climbing equipment and skills were required. The windy condition and low temperatures caused some serious inconvenience while installing the camera, but the project team has been successful in doing so. If the nest is occupied, in addition to being able to live real-time live of these rare birds, the technology will provide us with valuable information about the behavior of the species needed for its conservation activities.

The installation of the camera takes place within the framework of a five-year LIFE + project “Protection of the Black and Griffon Vultures in the Rhodopes” developed by Rewilding Europe in partnership with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF Greece, the Greek Ornithological Society. The project aims at restoring and expanding Griffon vulture populations and returning the Black Vulture to this part of the Balkans.

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