Migration is among the most hazardous endeavours for the Egyptian Vultures as they face numerous threats along the flyway. The last case recorded by our team confirms that as the
adult Egyptian Vulture named Bella died in Saudi Arabia last week. Bella was tagged with a GPS transmitter in Bulgaria 2022 as a subadult bird. This spring, she started her spring migration from the wintering grounds in Ethiopia. However, a few days ago our team received a worrying signal from its transmitter indicating that the bird is most probably dead. BSPB contacted its partners from the National Center for Wildlife (NCW) in Saudi Arabia, who visited the last location from the transmitter and unfortunately found the dead body of Bella with a broken wing under a high-voltage pylon north of Medina. The detailed analyses of the telemetry data reveal that Bella died at night. She was roosting on the pylon but was most probably scared by people at night and collided with the electric wired or the pylon. This was not the first challenge Bella faced along the way. Just ten days earlier, she had shown weird behaviour in south Saudi Arabia. For three consecutive days, she stayed on the ground, almost not moving, and we suspected that she became a victim of poisoning. The local rangers of NCW visited the site, but the vulture managed to take off and land on a nearby pylon, where she stayed for another two days. Slowly she recovered and started flying longer distances again and continued its migration. We suspect that she got slightly poisoned but managed to recover. However, the poisoning might have had a long-term effect on the fitness of the vulture and its coordination, which might have led to the deadly collision with the electric wires/pylons a few days later.

This case proves the numerous challenges that the Egyptian Vultures face along the flyway – poisoning, electrocution and collision with energy structures, illegal killing, etc. In the frame of the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project (LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874) BSPB and its partners conducted large-scale research and conservation actions along the entire flyway to safeguard the species. However, continuous efforts are needed to tackle these complex threats which operate over vast areas in the Balkans, Middle East and Africa and improve the conservation status of this globally Endangered species.

BSPB express gratitude to the National Center for Wildlife (NCW) in Saudi Arabia for investigating this case in the field and revealing the cause of Bella’s death.