Sad news about the migration of the captive-bred Egyptian vultures released in Bulgaria


Migration map of captive-bred Egyptian vultures released in Bulgaria in August 2016.

In September, Regina, Lom and Elodie – the three captive-bred Egyptian vultures released in Bulgaria on 25th of August, started their migration.


Two of the birds - Regina and Lom (brother and sister with Turkish origin) started migration in early September. They followed very similar itinerary but few days apart, through Turkey and Cyprus and unfortunately have drowned into the sea. During their unsuccessful migration each of two birds flew over 1,500 km (out of them 500 km over the sea) for 8 days, with average run ca. 200 km per day.


Something that worth to note regarding the migration of these two birds:


# There is no evidence they stopped for a rest during the day or "refueling" nevertheless both were flying through areas with operating vulture restaurants in Bulgaria (Sliven and Madzharovo) and Greece (Dadia).


# They followed migration road of birds of prey, as in the area they landed in Cyprus there is an observation point for monitoring of autumn raptor migration. However, this road (through Cyprus) has not been evidenced for use of wild Egyptian vultures from the Balkans and generally there are very few observations of the species in Cyprus (just 1-2 individuals per year, and not every year / data from BirdLife Cyprus).


# The similarity in the migration journeys of these two (related) birds was really amazing, considering they were flying few days apart.


# It is still a huge enigma what motivated their behavior to change the direction of flight so close to the coast (70 km for Regina and 40 km for Lom) so that instead to reach the land, they continued to fly some more 130-150 km to the southwest over the sea, which decision actually caused their deaths.


Elodie – the youngest captive-bred Egyptian vulture, started migration the latest (end of September), and probably due to her genetics (French origin), she started to migrate on southwest, reaching Peloponnese and facing the huge challenge to cross the Mediterranean Sea.


More details on each individual vulture could be found below:


Regina originates from a Turkish population, hatched on 1/6/2016 and raised in Vienna Zoo. The first flight she made on 26/8/2016. After a week flying in the area of hacking site, on 2nd September she suddenly started migrating south. Same day she flew over Eastern Stara Planina and Eastern Rhodopes, and went in Greece in the area of Dadia (Thrace). The next day (3/9/2016), she entered Turkey, crossed the Sea of Marmara via the Dardanelles and continued to travel south along the Aegean coast. On 7th of September she reached the western coast of Antalya Basin which was a critical point in her travel. In the next morning (8/9/2016) Regina choosed to cross the sea instead to continue east along the coast. She flew over 270 km for 9-10 hours over the sea and finally reached the western coast of Cyprus. In the morning of 9th of September, without any break, she continued her migration south entering again into the sea through Akrotiri Peninsula at 10:00 - the distance to the nearest coast was 240 km. For 6 hours she flew over 190 km and at 16:00, some 50 km from the Lebanese coast, she changed the direction of flight and continued 130 km more in southwestern direction. Obviously very exhausted drowned into the sea at 20:00, just 25 km from the coast of Tel Aviv...


Lom originates from a Turkish population (brother of Regina), hatched on 6.6.2016 and raised in Vienna Zoo. The first flight he made on 26/8/2016. He started migration on 6.9.2016 and interestingly, he followed her sister Regina almost exactly in her footsteps, with few days delay. Unlike Regina, he had crossed the Marmara Sea through the Marmara islands – and not through the Dardanelles, and migrated through Central Anatolia rather than following the coast. On the 13th September Lom entered into the sea from the same place (Adrasan) that Regina used, reaching the western coast of Cyprus, where it spent the night. The next day (14/9/2016) he continued to fly south over the sea, almost reaching the Israeli coast (some 40 km away), but then veered southwest and continued to fly 150 km more, where in the evening drowned off near Egypt.


Elodie originates from Pyrenean population, hatched in Paris Zoo on 16.6.2016 and raised in Praha Zoo. She made her first flight on 1st of September and almost a month was staying in the area of the hacking site, regularly visiting the nearby vulture restaurant. She started migration on 26th of September, in southwestern direction, which could be expected from her origin. Same day she flew 85 km and roosted on a hill in Elena Forebalkan. Next day continued over Stara Zagora, Haskovo, Kurdjali and entered in Greece trough Komotini area. Second night Elodie spent in agricultural field near the Burugyol lagoon. On 28th at 14:00 Elodie reached Athos over the sea (110 km) and obviously tired, spent the night very close to the place it reached the peninsula (just 1,5 km away). On the next day (29/9/2016), she continued to fly over the sea (100 km) and reached the Greek island Alonnisos. On 2/10/2016 she reached Peloponnese (last coordinates are near the settlement Poulithra). Choosing this migration road, eventually through Crete and crossing the 300 km over the sea to reach Africa makes her journey extremely challenging (many juvenile Egyptian vultures drown into the sea during their first migration - you can read more on this subject here).


The captive-bred birds were donated to BSPB by Praha Zoo within the framework of the European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), under the close collaboration with the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), and were released in collaboration with  the Nature Park "Rusenski Lom" and Green Balkans.

LIFE+ project The Return of the Neophron, Egyptian vulture, migration