Earlier this month new group of 13 cinereous vultures from Spain arrived in Rhodope Mountains rewilding area in Bulgaria. The black vulture – Europe’s largest and heaviest bird of prey returned to the Eastern Rhodopes after the first group of birds was released at the end of 2022.
The return of the species is taking place as part of the black vulture population recovery program in the Bulgarian part of the mountain, carried out by a team of the Rewilding Rhodopes, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), the Spanish non-governmental organization “Group for the Rehabilitation of Native Fauna and its Habitat” – GREFA.
The 3,300-kilometer-long journey of the rare birds across almost all of Europe took three days. After their arrival the birds were carefully transferred into individual shipping boxes and transported to their new home. The team of experts will be monitoring the newly arrivals in the coming days to make sure that the adaptation of the vultures is proceeding normally and that they birds are in good condition. The vultures were temporarily housed in a specially built adaptation aviary, where they will spend the next few months getting used to their new home until they are all released back into the wild this fall. The new group is expected to join the birds already released last year and form a colony.
Most of the black vultures released in 2022 are doing well and have adjusted to life and their new home in the Eastern Rhodopes. In addition 13 artificial nests were built, which the team hopes will be used by the birds. We witnessed interesting moments from the first few months of the birds’ stay in the country thanks to the mounted cameras in the aviary and individual satellite transmitters fitted on the birds. The released birds have successfully socialized with the other two vulture species in the area, feeding together and making longer journeys. One bird flew to Romania and returned, and others of the released vultures make regular visits to neighbouring regions – Western Rhodopes, Sakar, Strandzha, Stara planina. “Unfortunately, there are also losses – in the last 6 months, we lost two birds due to illegal shooting, one due to a collision with a wind generator and a fourth bird that died of exhaustion,” commented Dobromir Dobrev, vulture coordinator and expert from the BDZP.
The birds were provided by the Spanish non-governmental organization GREFA (Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona), which has been working for years to rescue and rehabilitate injured wild birds. The activities to return the black vultures to the Eastern Rhodopes are carried out by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in cooperation with Rewilding Rhodopes and are funded by Rewilding Europe.