Satellite transmitters track two more juvenile griffon vultures

2 July 2019

As part of ongoing LIFE Vultures project in June two juvenile Griffon Vultures from the Eastern Rhodopes were equipped with satellite transmitters providing critical data on the distribution, migration and possible threats to the birds, enhancing conservation of the species in the region.

Thus totally 29 Griffon Vultures and 26 Black Vultures successfully tagged with transmitters, colour rings and numbered wing tags, enabling easier and quicker identification, and collected blood and biological samples.

“Young Griffon Vultures spend the first years of their lives in wandering, sometimes embarking on long journeys and covering vast distances. Thanks to the technology we were also able to witness a record  flight  – the first Balkan Griffon vulture flew  over 5,700 km from the Eastern Rhodopes to Southern Sudan.

The data collected so far reveal that both Griffon Vultures from Bulgaria and black vultures from Greece pass through the Bulgarian-Greek border daily in search for food. Some of the Griffon Vultures have surprised the scientists and LIFE Vulture team undertaking distant and exotic destinations.

Tagging vultures require special skills – including cliff climbing

Thanks to the new technologies, during the last few years we have witnessed interesting trips of the Rhodopes vultures. Juvenile griffon vultures reach Syria, Israel Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen. Black vultures are generally lead more sedentary life and their voyages are within the Balkan Peninsula. Among the most prominent black vultures voyager is the juvenile Hrisula, who in 2019 flew over 3,200 km in 17 days, crossing through Serbia, northern Macedonia, Albania and reaching Athens.

Unfortunately the transmitters often demonstrate what is already a well-known fact – about 70% of the young birds don’t reach maturity. Since the beginning of the year, three black vultures in the Greek part of the Rhodopes have been the victims of poisoning. The incidents occurred near the borders of Dadia National Park in Greece, where the only colony of a black vulture on the Balkans is located. In mid-April, a Griffon Vulture with a tracking device was also found dead.

One of the main objectives of the LIFE Project “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in Rhodope Mountains”  (LIFE Vultures) is  the recovery and further expansion of both black and griffon vulture populations in this part of the Balkan region. Project activities are run by Rewilding Europe in partnership with Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds/BirdLife Bulgaria (BSPB), WWF GreeceVulture Conservation Foundation and Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece.

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