A long-lasting mystery finally revealed in the Eastern Rhodopes!


Photo: Atanas Delchev

A mysterious Egyptian Vulture with a metal ring on its left leg re-occupied a former breeding territory in the Eastern Rhodopes in 2014. In the past, we have used such metal rings but also color plastic rings to mark juvenile Egyptian Vultures in Bulgaria. It was definitely one of these chicks which has survived to adulthood and now raises its own offspring. Unfortunately, it has lost its plastic ring, and decoding the inscription of the metal ring to find the identity of the bird was a challenge.

During these six years, numerous attempts were made to photograph the ring from a very close distance but they all failed. Last year we managed to read the first two digits of the ring which only enabled us to say that the bird was ringed in 2008 but nothing more. This year the vulture was photographed from a hide while feeding at the vulture restaurant close to its breeding territory and finally the mystery was revealed. We managed to read the ring and realized that this is the elder of two siblings ringed in 2008 in the Eastern Rhodopes. It was raised in a nest located just 13 km away from its current breeding territory. This bird has never been observed until it returned as a breeder six years later.

We can only guess how many challenges it faced and countries visited until it decided to come back to Bulgaria and settle in its own breeding territory. Egyptian Vultures are philopatric and they usually return to breed in the same area where they were born. Now it is a gorgeous female who is successfully raising chicks every year. She was chosen as a foster parent of the first captive-bred Egyptian Vulture released by this method on the Balkans. She and her partner took excellent care for both the foster and their own chick and raised them successfully until the first fall migration.

We wish her long life and hope that she will raise many more chicks contributing to the recovery of her species in Bulgaria and the Balkans!

We are grateful to Atanas Delchev who managed to photograph the ring and to Ivaylo Angelov and Hristo Hristov who ringed the bird in 2008 and provided photos.