© Yana Barzova

On December 2nd, teams from Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and North Macedonia counted a total of 849 Griffon Vultures during the traditional count of the species in the Balkans. This event has been taking place since 2005, and it is organized and coordinated by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB).

The number of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes reached 323 individuals, which is an absolute record for the species in the region. For comparison, last year 269 vultures were registered, and in 2021 – only 175 birds. Teams from BSPB and the “Rewilding Rhodopes” Foundation participated in the count. Another 9 Griffon Vultures were counted in the Greek part of the Eastern Rhodopes. It is also encouraging that 17 vultures were identified in the gorge of the Mesta River in Greece, where the existing colony was destroyed by mass poisoning in 2012.

© Dobromir Dobrev/BSPB

This year, in the places for the reintroduction of the species in Stara Planina and Kresna, teams from FPS Green Balkans, Wild Flora and Fauna Fund, Society for the Protection of Birds of Prey, Central Balkan National Park, Nature Park “Vrachanski Balkan”, Nature Park “Blue Stones”

This year, in the reintroduction sites for the species in Stara Planina and Kresna, teams from the Green Balkans, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, Birds of Prey Protection Society, “Central Balkan” National Park , Ecocommunity Foundation, Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park and Natural park “Blue Stones” identified a total of 203 birds, which is also a record number for the species in these places.

© Hristo Ivanov

In Greece, a total of 136 Griffon Vultures were counted, in Serbia – 168, and in North Macedonia – 19 birds. A total of 45 experts and staff from 14 state institutions and non-governmental nature conservation organizations participated in the count abroad, including the Society for the Protection of Biodiversity of Thrace (SPBT) (Greece), the Agency for the Environment and Climate Change – Greece (APEE), Evros Prefecture (Greece), HOS/BirdLife Greece, the Stavroupoli Forest Department (Greece), Ipeiros Protected Areas MU -NECCA, Amvrakikos MU – NECCA, Mesolonghi Lagoon MU – NECCA, Ioannina Forest Department, Thessalia Protected Areas MU – NECCA (Greece), ANIMA (Greece), NGO Jadovnik (Serbia), SNR Natura, Belgrade-Valjevo (Serbia), Nature Conservation Association – AQUILA (North Macedonia).

© Dobromir Dobrev/BSPB

The count is traditionally held in early winter when the breeding period of the vultures begins. The goal is to determine the population size of the Griffon Vultures on the Balkans, their age structure, and pre-nesting distribution, and to identify potential threats in nesting and resting places.

The count has been conducted since 2005 in Bulgaria and Greece, and for the last 12 years, data on the population size of the Griffon Vultures in the pre-breeding season have been collected in Serbia and North Macedonia as well.

This activity is carried out by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in cooperation with the “Rewilding Rhodopes” Foundation.