Optimistic results from the monitoring of the Egyptian vulture in the Balkans in 2020


© Ivaylo Dichev

Тhe results from the monitoring of the Egyptian vulture in 2020 indicate an increase of about 6% in the number of occupied territories (from 52 to 55)  and 9% in the number of pairs compared to 2019 (from 45 to 49) (Figures 1 & 2). The increase of the territories is registered in Bulgaria where the numbers fluctuate in the last 8 years but remain stable while in the rest of the Balkans there isn’t any change in the last 3 years (see Figure 1). This is most probably due to the higher survival rates of the individuals from the east of the peninsula and their recruitment in former or new breeding territories. The most significant increase in the number of pairs was registered in Bulgaria (2 more compared to 2019) and a slight increase of one pair in Albania and Greece respectively (Figure 2).

The Balkan population is fragmented and the stronghold of the species in the Balkans – the Eastern Rhodope Mountains demonstrates stability in 2020 with an increasing number of occupied territories (22 in 2019 and 23 in 2020). The population clusters in North Macedonia and Albania show stability with the same number of occupied territories in the last 3 breeding seasons (14 and 9 respectively). The population cluster in North Bulgaria indicates an increasing number of occupied territories in the last 3 years. A new territory that has never been occupied before appeared for the first time in 2020 there. One of the adult birds is hatched in the neighboring territory in 2008 and recruited 12 years later. The critically endangered cluster of the species in Central Greece reached its’ historical minimum with only one bird left and an uncertain future (Figure 3).

The breeding parameters in the different states remain around the mean or higher compared to other populations of the species across Europe. The number of raised chicks is less compared to 2019 in all Balkan states (Figure 4). This season was again very successful for the species in Bulgaria with 28 fledglings raised (30 in 2019 and only 21 in 2018) by 22 successful pairs (85% of the pairs).

One of the main conservation tools we use to support the Egyptian vulture population in the Balkans – the network of supplementary feeding sites continued to operate in 2020. We supported seven pairs at two vulture restaurants and another nine pairs with the individual supplementary feeding scheme in Bulgaria during this breeding season (ca 62% of the population in Bulgaria). In addition, the pilot supplementary feeding site that opened in 2019 in the Eastern Rhodopes supported one adult bird at the end of the breeding season this year. Three feeding stations were operating in Greece to cover 60% of the species‘ population left in the country. Meanwhile, Albania and North Macedonia were also operating two and one feeding stations respectively, providing food to at least 5 different pairs (2 in Albania and at least 3 in North Macedonia) and thus covering 40% and at least 23% of the population of the species in these two countries.

The regular monitoring of the breeding territories of the species on the Balkans and the maintenance of the supplementary feeding stations are carried out within the LIFE project "Egyptian Vulture New LIFE".