The griffon vulture was absent from the Alps until the beginning of the years 2000, having disappeared completely by the beginning of the 20th century. However, due to the reintroduction projects implemented in a number of pre-alpine sites (Baronnies, Vercors and Verdon), the species started to reappear there again from 2003.
Since 2010 a census of summering griffon vultures has been carried out, covering mainly the western Alps (France and Italy), through cooperation with national and natural parks, ornithological associations and some other partners. The census takes part in the second part of August, when summering griffons are more stabilized – before one can still observe some erratic spring dispersion, while in September the griffons start going back to their perennial ranges.
Last year this census took place on the 22nd August. As in previous years, effort was mostly focussed in the western part of the Alps (French Alps, Ardèche and Italian Piemonte). Meteorological conditions were variable, with bad weather preventing some counts, and notably of one large roost in Mercantour.
Nevertheless, an estimated +1700 individuals have been counted, a similar number as in previous years (1682 in 2014). Birds follow the summer aestivage of livestock, and profit from accidents and mortality – last summer an exceptional 400 griffon vultures were counted near an incident that killed about 100 sheep in Haute Dauphiné (Clavans). The map below shows the number of individuals present in roosts in the western Aps last summer.
The alpine griffon vulture summering census has been organised by Jean Pierre Choisy, and moved about 340 volunteers across the Alps in 3 countries. Below you can find the report (in French) for the Haute-Dauphiné.
This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation January 2016