Rare bearded vulture leaves UK for France after summer above Peak District


In July, the unexpected arrival in the UK of a bearded vulture surprised and delighted bird watchers, several hundred of whom immediately traveled to the hills of the Peak District – where he had apparently made his home – with the aim of to see the huge creature.

With a wingspan of 2.5 m (8.2 feet), the vulture, nicknamed “Vigo”, has been a guest of honor in Britain. It is even larger than the white-tailed eagle – the largest native bird of prey to the British Isles – which is known as the “flying barn doors” due to its 8-foot wingspan.

But after four months of flying over the lakes, as well as sightseeing in the skies of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, Vigo headed south and was sighted over the sea on the east coast. Sussex Thursday, towards France.

It seems that she – and she is – is going home. Genetic tests performed on a pair of bird feathers found by an eagle-eyed bird watcher in Yorkshire named David Ball have revealed Vigo is a female who hatched last year in the French Alps .

Steffen Oppel, Senior Conservation Scientist at RSPB, said The independent it is “extremely rare that a bearded vulture is seen in the UK”.

He said: “These birds occur naturally in the mountains, at least 400 miles away in the Alps, and only around 20 wandering bearded vultures have roamed northwestern Europe in the past 35 years. But since vultures rarely cross water bodies, this is only the second UK bearded vulture record in living memory, the previous one being a captive-bred bird released in 2016.

“As the people of the Alps and southern Europe recover from the persecution of previous centuries, she may become a somewhat more frequent visitor in the future, but she is unlikely to reach more than one or two birds per year. “

According to the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), which carried out the genetic tests, Vigo was born in a wild nest in Haute-Savoie in south-eastern France.

The organization has released captive-bred bearded vultures in the Alps since 1986, with the aim of bringing the species back to the region after it was hunted and poisoned to extinction.

There are now more than 60 breeding pairs in the Alps, but the bird remains classified by the IUCN as “near threatened”.

“The secret to the success of bearded vulture reintroduction projects is to tackle major threats such as poisoning, collisions and gunfire, which have been reduced in key areas of the Alps,” said Louis Phipps, responsible for UK based VCF research.

He added: “The mortality records we receive each week show that threats still exist across vultures across Europe, while the increase in population reflects the success of conservation efforts.

“I was excited after that meeting, they’re huge,” said photographer John Wall, who took this photo at Beachy Head.(John Wall)

Despite their impressive size, bearded vultures pose no threat to livestock and feed on salvaged bones.

Vigo’s visit to the UK is only the second such incidence recorded, with sightings of another bearded vulture over Dartmoor and Monmouthshire in 2016.

Q&A with Steffen Oppel from the RSPB:

Could the bird’s visit signal that the UK may become a new anchor for the species?

The UK is unlikely to become a new fulcrum for the bearded vulture. They typically live in very high mountains and in warmer climates, and most vultures travel passive hovering, using warm air that rises to gain altitude, and then soar long distances without flapping their wings. In the UK these thermals are not very strong, so it will be an energetically very demanding place for vultures to live there and forage for food.

What if something has been learned from the vulture’s stay?

How ingenious and hardy these birds are! Although the bird is hundreds of kilometers outside its range, and neither the weather nor the habitat is similar to what it usually lives in, it has managed to survive for several seemingly healthy months. .

Is it likely that the bird will return?

Vigo is unlikely to return. Other juveniles may visit, but the young vultures roam large areas and eventually return to where they originated – in Vigo’s case, it is the French Alps.

What are the best facts about the bearded vulture?

Probably the fact that they eat bones – something that most other scavengers will leave behind! Your dog will chew on bones and tear every piece of flesh from the bone, but only the bearded vulture can actually digest and extract nutrients from the bones. When the bones are too big to swallow, they drop them on rocks to break them.

It is also the rarest of the four species of vultures in Europe – simply because they have been ruthlessly persecuted and hunted to extinction because people believed to steal sheep and children (which is not the case).


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