21 chicks and counting – good breeding season in the bearded vulture captive breeding network – and a surprising and rare third clutch

imageSo far this season there are already 21 chicks in the VCF coordinated captive breeding network – including a spectacular 8 born in the Guadalentin specialized captive breeding centre, run by the Junta de Andalucía and Fundación Gypateus. With a total of 54 eggs laid, some more hatchings are expected in the next few days. This is on par with last season, that totalled 58 eggs, 33 hatchings, which resulted in 26 chicks.

Every breeding season brings us surprises – some good, others bad. In the last few days an incredible occurrence was registered at the Vallcalent specialized bearded vulture breeding Unit, managed by the VCF. The female from the older breeding pair laid its third egg in a third clutch – the first time this is observed in 40 years of breeding this species in captivity!

This female, code BG103, born in 1988, was always very difficult, and was paired with 5 different males before an effective pair bonding occurred. She is a very dominant bird and aggressive. Each time she lays the 2nd egg (normally 8-10 days after the first one) she rebuilds the nest bowl and buries the first egg under the wool – normally, to save the egg it is necessary always to remove the 1st egg a few days before the 2nd egg is laid.

This breeding season the same pattern happened: On the 27/12/15 she laid her 1st egg. Two days later it was necessary to remove it because it was already buried under the wool. But she didn’t lay a second egg.

Twenty five days later she laid again. It was the 1st egg of the second clutch. This time the egg was immediately removed and adopted by another breeding pair. Surprisingly she didn’t lay the 2nd egg, but the pair continued mating. Nevertheless, mating frequency decreased as time went by, and hopes for the second egg of the second clutch dimmed.

It was then surprising that 35 days after the second clutch, the female has laid this week the 1st egg of the 3rd clutch!

Photos VCF

This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation 6 March 2016


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