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The first hatched Black Vulture for the last 28 years is now a fact!

1
22.05.2021
The chick was hatched by a pair in the Kotlenska planina SPA, 36 years after the species was officially declared extinct for Bulgaria.

Thus, the breeding population of the Black Vulture becomes:
•    2nd on the Balkans, along with the one in the Dadia NP, Greece.
•    4th for the Southeast Europe (Dadia, Crimea and Caucasus).
•    5th for the EU, with the populations in France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The young chick was first photographed by Lachezar Bonchev, from the Fund for the Wild Flora and Fauna team, taking care of the birds in the region.

At the beginning of 2021 we observed three pairs with nesting activity – 2 in East Stara planina and one in Vrachanski Balkan NP. Only one of the pairs managed to hatch a chick, most probably due to the inexperience of the birds.
The birds chose an artificial nest for their egg, which they upgraded and strengthened.

The restoration of an extinct species is not a single event, it takes a lot of efforts and work. The preliminary research underlined several parameters for the successful recovery of the species:
1.    More than 1 individual, 8 at best, in the release area.
2.    A whole-year-round presence of the species in the areas of release.
3.    Formed stable breeding pairs.
4.    Established breeding behavior within the pairs (occupation of territory, nest building, courtship display, flights and mating).
5.    Laying an egg.
6.    Raising a chick.
7.    A minimum of 5-6 chicks raised in the release areas, the number of chicks should exceed the number of lost individuals.

At the end of 2019, after the release of 18 birds, the first objective was accomplished in Eastern Stara planina, and at the end of 2020 objectives 2 and 3 followed. In 2021 we managed to observe 3 pairs, that laid 2 eggs and a single hached chick.

In 2015 the “Bright Future for the Black Vulture” LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649 partnership project between Green Balkans (www.greenbalkans.org), the Fund for the Wild Flora and Fauna (www.fwff.org), the Birds of Prey Protection Society (www.bpps.org), the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF – www.4vultures.org), the German foundation EURONATUR (www.euronatur.org) and the Extremadura regional government in Spain (www.juntaex.es) was started. The project is financed through the LIFE programme of the EU and aims to recover the Black Vulture in Bulgaria through reintroduction practices.

Additional information:
An important point along the way was the fact that the birds chose to nest on deciduous (non-evergreen) tree species, such as Sessile oak. In Spain, the species also nests on oaks, but they prefer evergreen species such as Holm and Cork oak. In Dadia (Greece) they nest exclusively on pines, and in Turkey and Georgia on pines and junipers. This led us to expect that birds raised and imprinted on Mediterranean forest nesting substrate were unlikely to attempt nesting on deciduous (non-evergreen) trees from the temperate zone, and that they would probably prefer pines. Although artificial platforms were also built on pines, so far the pairs have preferred to nest on oaks. This gives us hope that Bulgaria and other countries with a predominant temperate climate and vegetation will be able to provide suitable conditions for the Cinereous Vulture and it will recover in parts of its historic range, where it disappeared due to human intervention.

Nowadays, despite the lack of giant oaks and elms on plains and semi-mountainous areas, there are still places that can, with purposeful management, once again be occupied by the Cinereous Vulture and hopefully the species will return permanently to the Bulgarian avifauna, which after the latest news is becoming more and more likely.

Despite being quite common and ubiquitous throughout the country until the early twentieth century, the Cinereous Vulture is thought to have disappeared from Bulgaria. This fact was officially described for the first time in the Red Data Book of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria from 1985, when the species was placed in the category “extinct”. The actual extinction probably occurred in the period 1950-1960, when nesting data was no longer available and observations of the species became extremely rare.

In the 1980s, sightings of single birds and small groups of the species became more frequent in the Eastern Rhodopes, where individuals from the last known colony of the species in the Balkans – in the Dadia forest in Greece, flew over the border area. Such individuals probably formed a pair and nested in the area of Studen Kladenets Dam, where in 1993 the first for decades and the last since then nest of the species in Bulgaria was discovered. After one successful nesting, the pair disappeared and so the return of the species was fleeting, which meant that the Cinereous Vulture remained in the category “extinct” in the next edition of the Red Data Book of Bulgaria in 2011.


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Source: FWFF (http://fwff.org/the-spring-of-the-cinereous-vulture-in-bulgaria-the-first-observed-active-nests-of-cinereous-vultures-for-28-years-in-bulgaria-are-already-a-fact/)


Contacts:
Ivelin Ivanov – “Bright Future for the Black Vulture” LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649 Project Manager
Mob.number: +359887 589995, email: iivanov@greenbalkans.org 
Emiliyan Stoynov – Fund for the Wild Flora and Fauna Coordinator 
Mob.Number: +359878 573841, email: pirin@fwff.org 

The activities for the reintroduction of the Black Vulture are implemented within: