Monday 27 September 2010


One of the Monk Vulture chicks born in Portugal being held by the Portuguese wildlife officer Carlos Pacheco (collaborator in some of SEO/BirdLife’s projects in Cáceres)
At last, after years of expectation, the Extremadura Monk Vulture colony in Tajo Internacional has decided to cross the border and start breeding in Portugal. This Cáceres colony of about 60 established pairs of Monk Vulture (also known as Cinereous Vulture and Black Vulture) has been nesting for some time at the end of the valley called Valle del Salor, within the "Tajo Internacional" Nature Park. Although birds from the colony often wandered into Portugal, they never actually nested in the neighbouring country, where the species was considered to be extinct as a breeder [although the media claim that the Monk Vulture had not bred in Portugal for 40 years, according to Infante (2004) there have been two confirmed cases of breeding, one in 1994 and the other in 2003]. All previous Portuguese attempts to expand the colony into their country, for example by installing artificial nests, had failed up to now. But it’s never too late...., in 2010 came the excellent news of three breeding territories being taken up on the Portuguese side of the border, two of which produced young. But the birds were beset by problems. The first pair failed when the nest fell at the start of incubation. Chicks hatched in the other two nests, in Holm Oaks, but they were blown down by gales in June and the chicks fell to the ground, where they were hastily rescued. One was in a critical state and needed intensive care in a specialist centre. Both chicks, baptised Aramil and Tajo, were then returned to their territories, duly marked with radio transmitters. Two artificial nests were built for that purpose, in the exact place where the original nests had fallen. There they completed their normal development. These three Portuguese pairs are very likely to have come from Extremadura.

Gala, the first Monk Vulture chick born in the Pyrenees for one hundred years, rests in her nest with a transmitter fitted to her back.

Good news involving Monk Vultures of Extremadura origin also came from the Catalan Pyrenees, where the species has bred for the first time in a century. In this case the "colonisation" needed human help, in the form of the successful reintroduction project begun in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009 a total of 27 birds bred in captivity in rehabilitation centres were released in the area, many coming from the "Los Hornos" rehabilitation centre in Cáceres. As at June 2010 14 birds remained in the release area (Boumort and Alinya in the Pyrenees of Lleida), 3 are in dispersal and 10 others have been found dead or have disappeared. In 2010 three mature pairs bonded. One of them involves two birds from Extremadura: Perla (a 7-year-old female released in 2007) and Portell (a 4-year old male released in 2007); this pair has built a nest and successfully reared a female chick called Gala, who took her maiden flight on 24 September. Another prime aim of the project was to create a nexus between the French and Iberian populations and this is also proving successful because French Monk Vultures and others from southwest Iberia are regularly being seen in the area. The released vultures also roam over a wide area covering part of France and nearly the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. Witness Obaga, a female born in captivity in 2009 and released this year; in spring 2010 it mingled with the colonies of Monfragüe and Sierra de San Pedro as well as passing through the East Coast, Cádiz, Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo and Aragón.

These two success stories are matched by others in France, Mallorca, Bulgaria, Greece, etc, where Monk Vultures from Extremadura are being used in reintroduction or reinforcement projects (see our blog SEO-Cáceres). 1992 saw the start of one of the most successful of these projects in the French Massif Central, where 30 pairs have now settled down, meaning that the French population is now the second biggest in Europe.

This information has been culled from the website: Pelanatureza (Portugal), Grefa and the reintroduction project in the Pyrenees. The photographs have been taken from

Infante, S. (2004). Status and Conservation of the Black Vulture in Portugal. International Symposium on the Black Vulture Aegypius monachus. Córdoba. España.