More than 100 Griffon Vultures pairs in the Eastern Rhodopes

2 March 2021

A total of 107 pairs of Griffon vultures were counted during the regular monitoring of the population of the species along the Arda River valley, Eastern Rhodopes by experts of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB).

The population of Griffon vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes maintains its positive growth this year as well. Several more nests remain to be inspected and this number will likely increase in the coming months. The number of established pairs that have started to breed at the moment is 75, and the rest of the pairs are repairing or building their nests. In the coming months, the exact number of breeding pairs as well as those that will not be laying eggs this year remains to be clarified. We expect to receive information from our colleagues from WWF Greece about the number of pairs that nest in the Greek part of the Eastern Rhodopes. Griffon vultures use the entire region of the Eastern Rhodopes to search for food, making them part of a population.

Some of the Griffon vultures tracked with GPS transmitters have already occupied their nests and are now hatching. For Buria (Storm) this will be the fifth nesting season since the bird was equipped with a transmitter and so far has successfully raised 3 young. Another veteran, who we have been following for 5 years, is Krum. He is experienced in breeding and so far has raised 4 chicks, and this year has taken a new nest near the dam Studen Kladenets. It is curious that for the first time we observed a pair of two Griffon vultures marked by us – 4V and 3G. The birds are not equipped with transmitters and have so far had unsuccessful attempts to breed with other partners. We hope that this relationship will be successful and that they will be able to raise offspring for the first time.

Аnother interesting story is the one of Dionysus, a Griffon vulture nesting in the Greek part of the Rhodopes. Last year, he demonstrated dedication and sacrifice. After losing his mate during the hatching period, he spent 33 days (without eating) tirelessly caring for the egg. In the end, Dionysus failed to raise a little one, but he proved to us once again that vultures are devoted parents. This year, Dionysus decided to take a break from his parent troubles, although he and his new partner have been building comfortable apartments on several rocks.

The Griffon vulture was widespread in the past in Bulgaria, but since the middle of the twentieth century its numbers have greatly decreased, and in the early 1970s it was considered extinct. In 1986, a colony of Griffon vultures was discovered near Madzharovo, consisting of about 20 birds and 3 nesting pairs. Then began the first direct activities for the conservation of the last vultures in Bulgaria. Thus, as a result of many years of efforts by experts and volunteers, the species is gradually recovering its population and today the Arda River Valley hosts one of the largest natural colonies of Griffon vultures in the Balkans.

Vulture conservation activities in the Eastern Rhodopes are carried out within the LIFE project “Conservation of Black and Griffon vultures in the Rhodopes”, prepared by Rewilding Europe in partnership with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation VCF, WWF-Greece and HOS.


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