Bearded Vultures soar in Spain once more

Bearded Vulture returns to Castellon after a century

The Bearded Vulture. Credit: Quartl/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Thanks to the efforts of Spanish conservationists, one of Europe’s most endangered birds is making a comeback.

The bearded vulture’s return to Castellon’s Tinenca de Benifassa natural park marks a triumphant comeback after more than a century. In October 2023, environmental technicians confirmed the presence of two male bearded vultures in the park, a significant milestone for conservation efforts.

Conservation triumph

The reintroduction of the bearded vulture to Tinenca de Benifassa, which began in 2017, has seen its first success with these two males, indicating the area’s suitability for their resettlement.

Raul Merida, the Valencian Community’s director of Natural and Animal Environment, stated, ‘It is significant that, compared to other similar projects, in Tinença the first pair was formed in less time, despite the fact that fewer individuals have been released on average in the area.’

Strategic reintroduction efforts

These birds, known for their philopatric nature, tend to return to their birth or release location, highlighting the effectiveness of the ‘hacking’ technique used for their release.

Merida emphasized the birds’ age, pointing out that ‘the presence of the two males offers good prospects for the reintroduction project,’ with both birds being young at four and five years old, and noting that bearded vultures typically reproduce around the ages of eight or nine.

The bearded vulture’s battle

Until the middle of the 20th century the species was present in most European countries, since then its distribution area has become progressively restricted, leaving a single viable wild population in the Pyrenees, where 85 per cent of the European population is currently concentrated

Listed as ‘In danger of extinction,’ the bearded vulture faces challenges from small population sizes, limited distribution, and colonisation difficulties.

The Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (FCQ) has been instrumental in expanding their range, with projects like the ‘Recovery of the bearded vulture in the Picos de Europa’ since 2002, aiming to create biological corridors for these majestic birds.

This story of the bearded vulture’s return is not just a win for the species but a beacon of hope for conservationists striving to restore nature’s balance.

With 11 individuals released and eight surviving, the skies over Tinenca de Benifassa are a testament to the perseverance and dedication of those committed to the preservation of our planet’s wildlife.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.