The Altering Fortunes of Europe’s Vultures – Half 3 The Egyptian Vulture

The Altering Fortunes of Europe’s Vultures – Half 3 The Egyptian Vulture


The Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus has been one in every of my favorite birds since I used to be little. Have a look at it shut up and it does look grotesque. I couldn’t describe it higher than Willoughby Verner did in his ebook “My Life Among the many Wild Birds in Spain” printed in 1909: “It’s when the Egyptian Vulture or Neophron, as it is usually styled, is seen shut at hand that it’s revealed in all its hideousness. The brilliant yellow shrivelled-up pores and skin of the bare head is most repulsive…and but it have to be repeated few birds current a finer sight when on the wing…”. I don’t share Verner’s whole disgust with the landed chook however I do agree that seeing this chook on the wing is one thing fairly particular.

Grownup Egyptian Vulture displaying element of its head

The chook, a summer season customer to Europe from winter quarters within the Sahel, is in decline throughout the continent. Its stronghold is the Iberian Peninsula. The newest estimates recommend that some 1,500 pairs breed in Spain. That’s about half of all the European breeding inhabitants. The inhabitants of Egyptian Vultures in Italy is nearing extinction, with fewer than 10 pairs, and numbers are additionally taking place within the Balkans, now with fewer than 70 pairs.

Pair of grownup Egyptian Vultures within the Pyrenean stronghold. Photograph courtesy Stewart Finlayson

The most recent Spanish breeding chook atlas (2014-18) compares the outcomes with the earlier atlas (1998-2002) and reveals that Egyptian Vultures continued to breed in 60% of squares examined. That they had disappeared from 16% however new websites accounted for twenty-four%. So, at this stage, losses have been being lined by good points at new websites. This corresponds properly with observations of migrating Egyptian Vultures on the Strait of Gibraltar bottleneck the place seasonal counts at the moment are of the order of three,000 birds, not dissimilar to these achieved within the Seventies.

Egyptian Vultures are thought of solitary birds however they’ll collect in teams on migration, particularly round meals sources

Spain’s southernmost area, Andalucia, we see that the inhabitants has remained regular, at round 25 pairs, since 2004. Look additional again, to the primary census undertaken and the variety of breeding pairs had been estimated at 94 in 1987. So our image modifications to one in every of sharp decline in latest a long time. The inhabitants is small and fragmented and regarded to be in peril of extinction. Causes? The principle ones are dying by poisoning and by collision with windmills. Egyptian Vultures are significantly delicate and susceptible to windmills. Lack of habitat, disturbance and dying by electrocution on excessive voltage cables are further components. Windmills are the reason for habitat destruction and dying of so many birds and I discover it annoying that these windmills are being put up “within the identify of inexperienced”. Evidently these environmental, local weather change-driven, agendas have been taken over by these with little information of or empathy for the remainder of life that lives in and shares this planet with us. Is the lack of populations and species of birds the worth to be paid for a miniscule discount within the carbon footprint? The place is the sustainability in that? Historical past will decide us.

Egyptian Vultures may also combine with different scavengers, right here with White Stork, Black Kite and Cinereous Vulture. Photograph Courtesy Stewart Finlayson

My passage above hints at one thing else that issues me. That is the concept of shifting baselines. Check out the Egyptian Vulture inhabitants since 2004 and, with no prior information, you’d say it’s secure. Return to 1987 and you start to see a severe decline. However by 1987 the Egyptian Vulture inhabitants in Andalucia was already diminished. Now, let’s take it again even additional. The ornithologist Howard Irby writing in his ebook “The Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar” written in 1895, had this to say of the Egyptian Vulture in southern Iberia then: “Close to Gibraltar, Neophrons, throughout their keep, are abundantly distributed…Many cross northwards on the finish of February…and the higher quantity, many a whole bunch, virtually all the time in pairs, cross throughout March.” So if we shift our baseline again to Irby’s day we must conclude that the Egyptian Vulture, in southern Iberia no less than, is a case of the “dwelling useless”, a inhabitants that could be a shadow of its former self and whose days are numbered, and solely simply stored alive largely by likelihood and no due to these “environmentally pleasant” windmills.

Grownup Egyptian Vulture in touchdown mode. Egyptian Vultures are significantly susceptible to windmills, a serious explanation for mortality

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