Fifteen young bearded vultures are expected to be released in small groups in Bulgaria by 2030 under the LIFE for the Bearded Vulture project launched in September. The goal is to introduce this endangered bird species back into the country. The first bird release is planned for 2025, biologist Simeon Marin of Green Balkans said.
Marin added that the birds will be provided by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, which coordinates the artificial breeding project. This is necessary because otherwise it would be difficult for the bearded vultures to recover naturally. That is why the project is focued on the conditions necessary for these birds to thrive.
“The species of the bearded vulture is the smallest in number in Europe,” Marin noted. He said that it has taken some 40 years to repopulate the species in the Alps. Pairs have already been formed in places such as Spain.
Mating for Life
While making the caveat that biologists refrain from personifying animals, Marin said that large birds such as swans, storks and vultures form pairs in a similar way as humans do.
“We can’t exactly call it a family, but large birds generally mate for life unless something happens to their partner, like death. Pairing is very difficult, though,” the expert pointed out.
Conservationists are on the alert for dead birds every day. “Opening the satellite panel to check for alerts is the first thing I do at the start of the day as part of the project. If there is any, it means that a bird is in trouble. Often, however, such a signal indicates that the bird has died,” Marin said.
Bearded Vulture Observation
On the occasion of the International Observation Day for Bearded Vultures on October 14, 2023, Green Balkans welcome anyone who is in the open parts of Bulgaria’s high mountains such as Rila and Pirin that day to record, and if possible photo-document, any vulture sightings. Marin commented that griffon and cinereous vultures can most often be spotted. These birds can even be seen flying over Sofia. The biologist stressed that any reported sightings are valuable.
“The observations and data collected give us a better understanding of the species range and provide basic information for scientists on survival rates,” Green Balkans added.
The vultures monitoring first began in the Alps in 2006 and has so far covered France, Spain, and Bulgaria. Its goal is a coordinated, simultaneous census of bearded vultures to allow detailed monitoring of their population status.
In 2022, some 1,200 volunteers observed 723 locations and a total of 529 bearded vultures were identified.
In 2023, bearded vulture experts will organise monitoring sessions at several observation sites open to birdwatchers and the general public. The sightings will take place in the Alpine Range, the French Pyrenees, Maestrazgo and Andalusia in Spain, and Bulgaria.