This question is asked countless times in the specialized email lists or fora– Griffon vultures in Europe are partly migratory, and movements of tagged griffons across borders are a daily occurrence – especially in the autumn.
In Western Europe, it is estimated that around 30% of all the Iberian young and immature griffons travel south across the strait of Gibraltar to winter in West Africa. In the Balkans the griffon is mostly a partial-migrant species, with many Balkan birds, especially young and immature, travelling south to the Greek peninsula or even farther through Turkey to the Middle East to winter.
Movements of tagged griffons across the Balkans are then very common, and with more projects using wing-tags or colour rings, the questions is asked hundreds of times every year – “seen a tagged griffon with code xyz, where is it from?”
In the last few weeks the internet was once again buzzing with the above question. Our Bulgarian colleagues from Green Balkans for example photographed recently a number of griffons with foreign wing-tags and rings at the supplementary feeding site above Sliven (N 42º 44′ 00.2″ E 026º 18′ 12.6″) – they turned out to be birds that had been tagged in Serbia by Sasa Marinkovic, in Uvac, the well-known breeding colony – this was the case of green ring S48 and 24 red wing tag, tagged in June 2015 in Uvac and photographed recently in Sliven. In Serbia, Marinkovic has also photographed birds that had been tagged in Bulgaria and released there in the reintroduction project in the central Balkan Mountains – see for example photo of griffon tagged K97 and photographed on 22.09.2016 at the supplementary feeding site near Uvac.
Further south, Ohad Hatzofe, a member of the VCF advisory board and working at the Israeli Nature and Parks authority, trapped recently a young griffon from Serbia in Sde Boker (Negev desert), together with 30 other GVs: it was S60 green ring, wing tag 45, a young bird tagged last June in the Serbian colony.
Interestingly, Sasa Marinkovic also photographed in Uvac last September a griffon that had been ringed in the Cazorla area, Andalusia, Spain in 2009 – the first griffon vulture from Western Europe recorded in Serbia.
Stories like these are repeated each autumn – bringing together researchers and experts from different countries, all together for vultures.
The VCF keeps a list of all the colour-codes used by the different projects across Europe, hoping to help with these enquiries – see http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/monitoring/colour-marked-vultures/
Photo Saša Preradovi?
This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation 2 November 2016