After becoming extinct by the beginning of the 20th century, bearded vultures started to be reintroduced in the Alps in 1986, in a project coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and implemented by a number of partners in 4 countries across the mountain chain. First breeding happened in 1997, and the population has been steadily increasing ever since.
In the winter of 2014/2015 a total of 67 bearded vultures in reproductive age (33 pairs/triplets) have been observed nesting. There was also one more pair observed colonizing a new territory, with both birds under 6 years and therefore not yet capable of starting successful breeding. From these 33 pairs 29 clutches were produced (5 more than last year), from which 19 chicks fledged successfully: 8 in Switzerland, 6 in France, 4 in Italy and 1 in Austria. This is the same number of wild-born bearded vultures that had fledged in 2014.
Even though the number of fledglings has been the same during the last 2 seasons, the increase in both the number of occupied territories (at least 2 new) and of clutches is a very positive sign of a healthy and growing population. The productivity (number of chicks per mature pair) is just below 60%.
All this data – and a lot more – are stored in the database of the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring, a programme established to monitor and research the species in the Alps, which is now coordinated by the VCF. We would like to thank all staff and volunteers from the IBM partners, for their fantastic follow up and monitoring efforts, and for inputting the data into the alpine database.
The return of the bearded vultures into the Alps – still continuing – is one of Europe’s greatest wildlife comebacks – something we can all be proud of!
This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation