1. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) – Last vulture in Albania.

Of the four breeding vultures species in Albania, nowadays only Egyptian Vulture continues to breed in our country, even though critically endangered. Therefore, our awareness for our last breeding vulture should be at its peak!

Egyptian Vulture is a globally endangered (EN) species whose population is facing a constant decline. The same situation is present also in the Balkans where only 50 pairs of them remain, from which up to 5 pairs are estimated to breed in our country.

A number of different reasons has led to the decline of the Egyptian Vulture population, such as: poisoning, electrocution, collision, poaching, illegal wildlife trafficking, etc.

Driven from this major threat (which leads to extinction), experts and institutions from all over the world have joined forces to recover Egyptian Vulture populations. Part of this initiative is also our country since 2002.

 

  1. In the Egyptian Vulture’s territories.

AOS carried out a five day expedition in the Egyptian Vulture’s territories on April 2019 (18-22 April 2019), based on the international monitoring protocols. During these five days, our team (of 5 persons) undertook a survey in 12 recognized territories in the southern part of Albania, in the region of Saranda, Gjirokastra and Përmeti.

The expedition proved once again that the Egyptian Vulture is quite a difficult and in the same time impressive species whose observation, especially of its behavior, is an outstanding experience with a lot of twists and turns.

Egyptian Vulture is quite an intelligent species which is very discreet and hides very well its nest. Nesting sites are relatively rocky, dry, exposed to harsh sunlight and it’s extremely difficult to stay in the same place for a long time. In such conditions, it is almost impossible to understand a lot about this bird with just one visit.

In each of 12 monitored territories, we spent at least 3-4 hours. During these long hours, we checked the area for the presence of the bird with the use of binoculars and telescopes.

Despite numerous controls and long and difficult observation hours, we found the Egyptian Vulture in only two territories which proves once again that the Albanian population of Egyptian Vulture is on its most difficult days. Meanwhile, in those territories where the bird was present, AOS spent a considerable amount of time to understand its behavior, habitats, nests, and to identify each of the birds based on their distinctive features. Most of the time, it is difficult to tell one individual from another but there are small details, such as: missing feathers or specific marks on the bird’s plumage that can make the difference.

During the first days, monitoring of the territories was carried out by a single group but in many cases the interpretation of the data could be wrong as long as there were no simultaneous observations for the nearby territories. Thus, in the following days the monitoring of the nearby territories was carried out by two groups, who simultaneously monitored the territories and constantly communicated in order to avoid double counting of the same individual of bird.

Monitoring of Egyptian Vulture (from identifying the presence of the birds in the area to the localization of the nests) is not an easy task. Therefore, it is important to select the most effective method from our experience on the field and at the same time equally important is the exchange of experience with experts from other countries.

 

  1. Interesting facts about Egyptian Vulture.

 

  • Egyptian vultures are the smallest of all vultures. They can reach 58 – 71 cm in length and have a wingspan of 1.7 meters.

 

  • Most Egyptian vultures migrate during the year. Birds that live in colder climate will move toward Sahara during winter.

 

  • Egyptian vulture was worshiped by pharaohs in Egypt because of its ability to remove garbage and remaining of dead animals. For this reason, Egyptian vulture is also known as “Pharaoh’s Chicken”.

 

  • Egyptian vultures mostly feed on carcasses of dead animals. They can also eat rotten fruits and vegetables. Rarely, they will hunt weak and injured small animals.

 

  • Egyptian vultures also eat eggs. They will use stones to break the hard outer shell. Egyptian vulture is one of the rare bird species that is clever enough to use a “tool” to get the food it wants.

 

  • Egyptian vulture is diurnal bird (active during the day) that can travel up to 120-130 km while searching for food.

 

  • Egyptian vulture is monogamous species (one couple mates for a lifetime).

 

  • Both parents build nest that can be located on the cliff, in the cave or on the tree (depending on the environment they inhabit). Nest can be very large, almost 1.5 m wide. It is made of sticks, wool, and remaining of food.

 

  • Female lays two eggs. Both parents sit on eggs during incubation period which lasts 42 days.

 

  • Both parents regurgitate swallowed food to feed their chicks until they reach age of three months. After that period, young chicks will start looking for food together with their parents. Egyptian vulture becomes sexually mature at age of six years.

 

  • Average lifespan of Egyptian vulture in the wild is 30 years and 37 years in captivity.

 

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