It might be the holiday season, but Bearded Vultures are hard at work. It's currently the middle of their breeding season, and some pairs in captivity have already laid eggs!
Captive-breeding Bearded Vultures
We here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) coordinate the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network (EEP) of zoos, specialised breeding centres, recovery centres and private collections. This involves closely working with our colleagues across Europe to ensure the best breeding results from the 178 birds within the Network. We reported on the breeding season kicking-off in early October, and now, we are happy to see that some pairs already laid eggs! This year so far, nine eggs have been laid within the Bearded Vulture EEP across Europe. Two in FPWC (CWR) Rescue Centre (Armenia), one in RFZ, three in Guadalentín, one in Asters, one in Liberec zoo and one in Vacallent Specialised Breeding Centre, managed by the VCF.
As of 31 December 2019, nine pairs laid a total of 14 eggs! In addition to the ones mentioned above, two breeding pairs laid two eggs in Liberec, one in Asters, one in RFZ and one in CCG Guadalentín.
A total of 19 pairs have laid 28 eggs within the Bearded Vulture EEP as of the 9th January.
Vallcalent Specialised Breeding Centre
There are currently three breeding pairs in Vallcalent, and two additional pairs that reached their sexual maturity, but we cannot tell if they will breed this year, but we sure hope so! These pairs are the most challenging ones within the Bearded Vulture EEP and are sent to Vallcalent Specialised Breeding Centre because with the expertise and experience of Alex Llopis (VCF's Vultures Captive Breeding Manager & Bearded Vulture EEP Coordinator) and the facilities at the centre these pairs have a better chance of breeding.
On 21st of December, the Bearded Vulture pair Joseph (male) and M. Antoinette (female) laid their egg! Joseph became a part of the EEP in 1998 and M. Antoinette in 1989. The female was released in the wild in June 1989. Unfortunately, she suffered a collision with a cable, and it was not possible to return her into the wild in May 2004. So, in September 2004, she was paired with Joseph. But, breeding success was very low in Asters and in July 2016, the pair was transferred in Vallcalent to analyse the problem.
M. Antoinette was limping very low with her left leg, and she was not able to build a nest bowl. This meant that eggs always rolled in the nest, and a lot of them broke. Since 2018, we remove the clutches and incubate them artificially. In 2018 and 2019 we could get 2 chicks respectively. The pair is a wonderful foster pair, rearing a chick each year.
We hope for a productive breeding season ahead!
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