© Bogdan Boev

A team from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and the “Rewilding Rhodopes” Foundation has released a second large group of Cinereous vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes as part of the species recovery program in the Bulgarian part of the mountain. The expectation is for them to join the eight Cinereous vultures released last year, which have permanently settled in the area of the Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar Mountain.

The first days are critical for the inexperienced birds, who must quickly learn to roost in safe places nearby and return to the feeding site until they strengthen enough to perform longer flights and find food on their own. The BSPB team is closely monitoring them during these days to ensure that the vultures’ adaptation is proceeding normally and that they are safe.

After nearly six months of adaptation in a specially built aviary between Madzharovo and Ivaylovgrad, the thirteen Cinereous vultures that arrived from Spain in June received their chance for a new life in the wild nature of the Rhodopes. The transition from a confined life to life in the wild must be smooth and stress-free for the birds. For this purpose, food is placed in front of the aviary, the doors are opened carefully, and tranquility is ensured in the area. This way, the vultures are given the opportunity to leave the aviary when they feel secure and calm. In October, experts and volunteers marked and attached transmitters to the rare birds, allowing the team to track their movements and monitor their condition in real-time, thereby learning more about their life in freedom.

“The release is going according to plan; the birds are calm and sticking to the area around the aviary. We expect them to join the Cinereous vultures released last year. Our big hope is that next year we will have good news about the first nesting attempts,” commented Dobromir Dobre from BSPB.

It is worth noting that the first two 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 to save and rehabilitate injured wild birds. Over the next few years, it is planned to release an additional 6-10 individuals annually as part of the current program. 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 newly formed colonies of the species in the Stara Planina.

© Bogdan Boev

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.