Thursday 30 May 2013


Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) is one of the most frequently featured species in this blog, being one of the national rarities most often recorded in Extremadura.  Since 2008, it has been recorded in six consecutive years, with one or two individuals annually and this is the fourth year running that we have shared the news here. And on this occasion with a double, given that in the same week in May, two individuals were seen: one in Badajoz province and the other in Cáceres.

The Badajoz bird, with plumage of a second-year juvenile (hatched in 2012), was found on 21st May 2013 by Marc Gálvez (see photo) in the roost site at Riscos de Valbellido, Salvaléon, in company with 240 Griffon Vultures (including birds tagged in Spain, France and Portugal). On the following days, at least until 25th May, it was also seen by Francisco Montaño, Antonio Núñez Ossorio, Joaquín Vázquez, Lorenzo Alcántara, José Portillo, José Gómez, Jerónimo Corral and Óscar Llama.

The Cáceres bird, with immature plumage of third calendar year (hatched in 2011), was found at Ecoparque (rubbish tip) at Mirabel on the morning of 25th May 2013 by Javier Prieta (photo above), together with 250 Griffon Vultures (three of them tagged in Spain) and more than 60 Black Vultures. A couple of hours later, Sergio Mayordomo and Eva Palacios (photo below) confirmed that it was still there, until 16.00 when it flew off. A little later, based on plumage similarities, it was seen at the Tajadilla in Monfragüe (Toril, Cáceres) by some Portuguese visitors and the following morning (26th May) it was again at the Mirabel rubbish tip (José Portillo), although there were no vultures still present there at midday (J. Prieta).

They appear to be the first Rüppell’s Vultures recorded in Spain in 2013. Based on a review by De Juana (2006), most records of the species in the Iberian peninsular are in May and October, coinciding with migratory movements to and from Africa by non-breeding Griffon Vultures. The two records from Extremadura given here, in areas where non-breeding birds were concentrating, also suggests that they accompanied the Griffon Vultures on their dispersal movements, As we have seen in a previous entry, in Extremadura the records are predominantly in May and June. With respect to age, of the eleven records in our region, seven were immature and four adults or sub-adults. De Juan’s (2006) review only covers the period to 2003, so we have also checked more recent data. In 2010, there were only two confirmed records, with none in Cádiz, where there are many sightings that are not submitted. In 2011 and 2012, although not yet confirmed, Rare Birds Spain collates 32 records in 2011 and 29 in 2012. No fewer than 52 of the two years combined were seen in post-breeding passage in Cadiz province. The rest, just eight birds, were spread between Cáceres (3), Teruel (2), Guadalajara (1), Lérida (1) and Albacete (1). Although the shape of the graph below is clearly skewed by the massive raptor watching effort in Cádiz, it can be seen that almost all of the sightings are between May and November. That is to say, when the Iberian Griffon Vultures arrive from and depart to Africa. Outside this period, there was one sighting in December (a bird on apparent passage to Africa, one in January (an immature in Cádiz) and another in March (an adult in a vulture colony, but not showing signs of breeding). The only record from Extremadura outside the May-November period is from January, again an adult, possibly hybrid.

Translated by Martin Kelsey.

[NOTE. A few weeks after the cases listed above, the June 22th, 2013, has been photograped by Alfonso Pérez del Barco, a third different vulture, aged third calendar year, at Villanueva del Fresno, Badajoz. Below is one of the picutres.]

Source: Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.