© Yana Barzova

In February, we witness a remarkable moment for the Bulgarian part of the Rhodope Mountains. After 31 years, two pairs of Cinereous vultures occupied nests in this part of the mountain. This happens only 14 months after the reintroduction of the species in the Bulgarian part of the Eastern Rhodopes, carried out by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation.

The newly formed pairs consist of four-year-old birds released in 2022. The nests they use are artificial and built by the BSPB and the Kartal Nest Foundation team. Currently, the vultures are actively renovating the nests and protecting them from other birds.

Activities for the return of the Cinereous vulture to the Bulgarian part of the Eastern Rhodopes started in 2022. At that time, in May, the first group of 17 birds was transported, released in November of the same year between the towns of Madzharovo and Ivailovgrad from a specially built aviary. In 2023, another 13 Cinereous vultures were delivered, which again, after a period of adaptation in the special aviary, were released in November. Both groups of Cinereous vultures were transported from Spain by the Spanish non-governmental organization GREFA (Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona), which has been working for years on breeding and reintroducing endangered species as well as rehabilitating injured wild birds. In the next few years, it is planned to release another 6-10 individuals annually as part of the current program.

© Volen Arkumarev/BSPB

“Establishing a colony in Bulgaria will support the survival of the species in the Balkans, as there is expected to be an exchange of birds with the last surviving local colony of about 25-30 pairs, located in the Greek part of the Rhodopes, as well as with the reintroduced Cinereous vultures in the Stara Planina,” said Dr. Dobromir Dobrev, an expert on the species from BSPB.

The activities for the return of Cinereous vultures vultures to the Eastern Rhodopes are carried out by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in collaboration with the “Rewilding Rhodopes” Foundation and are funded by Rewilding Europe.