Rhodopean black vulture pair undertakes aerial adventures

19 September 2019

If you think the holiday season is over think twice. Vultures, like people, are taking most of their vacation time in September as a young Rhodopean black vulture pair has recently demonstrated. A young black vulture pair set on a 3-week aerial adventures journey over the Rhodope Mountains.

Both vultures were tagged in the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park as immature birds in northern Greece in 2018 as part of the ongoing LIFE Vultures project and the data is already giving us insight into vulture behaviour and will help ongoing vulture conservation efforts in the area.

Black vulture in flight. The image is illustrative.

It seems that the pair shares the same taste for adventure as more then 20 days they have been flying, exploring and roosting together around Rhodopi area. They flew over a large territory in Greece and few times even crossed the border and ventured in Bulgaria. This year during the breeding season, the young vultures have been observed several times by the researchers of the Dadia National Park Management Body using an old, unoccupied black vultures nest, but unfortunately did not decide to nest. There is a hope of having a baby black vulture in 2020, if the pair is still together. .

The Rhodope Mountains are home to the only breeding colony of the black vulture in the Balkans; around 30 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 increasingover the past few years.

The nomadic behaviour of black vultures is not well-known -adult black vultures are generally thought to be sedentary birds, rarely staying far from their home territory where they breed. The GPS tagging and tracking currently being carried out \in the frame of the LIFE Re-vulture project is demonstrating that some juvenile black vultures have begun to challenge that conception. In 2018 a tagged juvenile black vulture called Helena travelled nearly 2200 kilometres in 11 days, flying directly over both the Southern Carpathians rewilding area in Romania and the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area in Bulgaria. Another fantastic flight was successfully completed by Lefteris, who travelled around 1100 kilometres in 11 days, exploring Bulgaria’s Central Balkan National Park before returning to Dadia. Chrysoula, an immature bird made probably the most ambitious Balkan tripthrough 5 countries, covering a distance of over 3200 km. She flew over North Macedonia and spent one day in Albania which is the first record of the species in the country for decades.

It is thought that the tendency of these birds to travel outside their home range and explore new areas is connected with a desire to locate other vulture colonies, and to find new areas with good feeding and breeding opportunities.

So far 20 satellite transmitters were mounted on black vulture backsin Dadia National Park, in the Greek part of the Rhodope Mountains. These transmitters will provide important scientific data about the distribution, movements and possible threats, which will further help identify future conservation actions for the species in this region. These actions are part of the LIFE Vultures project.


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