All Egyptian Vultures back in Portugal

The LIFE Rupis conservation project, led by Portuguese wildlife organisation Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), and funded by the European Union’s LIFE Fund and the MAVA Foundation, is working in the cross-border Douro region of Spain and Portugal to protect and strengthen the populations of Egyptian vultures and Bonelli´s eagle. With around 135 breeding pairs, the region has one of the largest populations of Egyptian vultures in Europe. Creating a network of feeding stations, improving habitat and nesting sites as well as tackling the major threats of electrocution from electricity pylons and illegal wildlife poisoning, the LIFE Rupis project will strengthen the population and improve breeding rates.

All the Egyptian Vultures that the Life Rupis project tracked leaving last autumn have successfully returned to their summer ranges in the Douro region on the Spain-Portugal border. Having survived the winter period in West Africa and the arduous spring migration and can now prepare for a successful breeding season.

This is particularly good news because one of the breeding adults, Faia, had not transmitted any data since 6th September 2018, during migration in northern Algeria, and the sub-adult Rupis (tracked since 2016) had also been out of transmission range for an extended period. Thankfully, all of the birds are now regularly transmitting data and appear to be behaving normally. All data are available on the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)  website, showing that Faia spent the winter period in very remote areas in southern Mauritania where there was no signal required to transmit data from the tracking unit.

The 2019 breeding season will be particularly interesting because the sub-adult Rupis is now entering its sixth calendar year and might have reached maturity and attempt to breed. Rupis arrived in the summer range 10 days earlier than in 2018 and so it is more likely that the bird will successfully find a breeding territory, but only time will tell. SPEA will be closely following the movements of all of the birds throughout the breeding season and until they migrate again in the autumn. Hopefully they will breed successfully and add to this important cross-border population of Egyptian Vultures.

This project is part of MAVA’s action plan to reduce mortality of migratory birds in the Mediterranean region.

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