Black vultures occupied nests in Rhodope Mountains for the first time in more than 30 years

14 February 2024

In February we witness a remarkable moment for the Bulgarian part of the Rhodopes. After 31 years, two pairs of black vultures once again occupied nests in this part of the mountain.

Black vultures in Rhodope Mountains rewilding landscape. Image: Yana Barzova

This is happening only 14 months after the beginning of the reintroduction of the species in the Bulgarian part of the Eastern Rhodopes, carried out by Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPS).

The newly formed pairs consist of four-year-old birds released in 2022. The nests they use are artificial and built by BSPB and the Kartal Nest Foundation. Now, the vultures are actively upgrading the nests and protecting them from other birds.

Newly formed black vulture couple. Image: Volen Arkumarev/BSPV

The black vulture reintroduction in the Bulgarian part of the Eastern Rhodopes started in 2022. In May, the first group of 17 birds was transported between the town of Madjarovo and Ivaylovgrad from a specially built aviary and was released later that year. In 2023 another 13 black vultures were delivered, which again, after a period of adaptation in the special aviary, were released in November. The two groups of black vultures were transported from Spain by the Spanish non-governmental organization GREFA (Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona), which has been working for years on the reproduction and reintroduction of endangered species as well as the rehabilitation of injured wild birds. Over the next few years, an additional 6-10 individuals are planned to be released annually as part of the ongoing program.

“Establishing a colony in Bulgaria will support the survival of the species in the Balkans, as it is expected that there will be an exchange of birds with the last surviving local colony of about 25-30 pairs located in the Greek part of the Rhodopes, as well as with the reintroduced black vultures in Stara planina,” shared Dr. Dobromir Dobrev from BSPB.

The activities for the return of the Black Vultures to the Eastern Rhodopes are carried out by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in cooperation with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation and are funded by Rewilding Europe.

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