A young Egyptian Vulture that had a false start in life got a second chance thanks to the dedication of our colleagues at the RIAS wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Algarve, and is now flying again!
Rescue and Rehabilitation
Alvor was a first-year Egyptian Vulture that was found weak and disoriented in the Alvor Estuary last November (hence its name), very late into the season. The bird was brought to the RIAS wildlife rehabilitation centre, where the staff there worked their usual magic, but because it was late in the migration season (these vultures travel to Africa to spend their winters), the bird was kept during the winter, to be released this spring.
We at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) provided a GPS tag so that we can monitor his movements in the wild, and with the help of staff from ICNF, the Portuguese statutory conservation body, the young Egyptian Vulture was transported to Monforte da Beira, in the Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional, on the border with Spain, where it was released in late April. The area was chosen not only because it does include some breeding pairs of Egyptian Vultures, but also because it has a few supplementary feeding points for vultures, where this bird can feed, socialize with other vultures, and learn essential skills to survive in the wild.
Alvor seems to have found his strength and sense, and has been roaming so far the area, flying a few dozens of kilometres. It has certainly found some food. We are keeping a close eye to see where it goes.
Normally, this coming autumn, Alvor should cross the Mediterranean and migrate to Africa, and will only probably return to Europe in 3 or 4 years.
Conserving and Monitoring Egyptian Vultures in Portugal
The population of the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture has declined a staggering 50 percent in the last 40 years in Europe. The Iberian Peninsula is the species stronghold in the continent, with an estimated 1,300 - 1,500 pairs.
The Egyptian Vulture is the only vulture species in Portugal that is still declining (like in some other parts of Europe). It now breeds only in the canyons of the Douro and the Tejo rivers, having disappeared from southern Portugal as a breeding species a few years ago. The national breeding population is of around 120 pairs.
Over the last few years the VCF and partners have been implementing a series of conservation actions in northern Portugal focussed on this species. The LIFE RUPIS project aimed to implement actions to strengthen the populations of the Egyptian Vulture (and the Bonelli's eagle) at the trans-border Douro, by reducing the mortality of these birds and increasing their breeding success. The project equipped electric lines against electrocution, took actions to minimize the threat of illegal poisoning, managed on the ground hundreds of hectares of important habitats for the species and created a network of supplementary feeding stations.
Weighing between 30 and 40 grams, the GPS transmitter that was fitted on the backs of Alvor will help us track its movements, without having any significant impact on the bird. The highly efficient solar-powered transmitter sends the GPS position over the mobile communications network and can provide as many as 500 location-fixes per day. Each transmitter has a lifespan of three to four years.
Visit our online public maps to follow the movements of several Egyptian Vultures that have been tagged by us, including Alvor.