LIFE22-NAT-BG-Bearded Vulture LIFE-101113869
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Conservation status
Black Vulture is a species of Community Interest, found in Annex I of the Birds Directive, Appendix II of Bern, Bonn Convention and CITES. In addition Black Vulture is listed Near-threatened Global IUCN Red List Category C1 and SPEC 1 Rare in Europe according to BirdLife International. The species chosen to promote and support the restoration of Black Vulture - Griffon Vulture is also on Annex I of the Birds Directive, Appendix II of Bern, Bonn Convention and CITES.
In Bulgaria the species is Extinct, listed in Annex II and III of the Biological Diversity Act.


The species
The Black (Cinereous) vulture (Aegypius monachus Linnaeus, 1766) is one of the largest raptors in the world, and the largest vulture in Western Palearctic, with wingspan of about 3 m, dark brown plumage, broad wings and short neck.
 
• body length: 110–120 cm
• wingspan: 250–295 cm
• weight: 7–14 kg

Breeding and migration
Builds nest on top of trees, on steep slopes or trees on rocks that can withstand the huge nest. Prefers to breed always away from human settlements and areas with human activity. The nesting habitat should be in close proximity to open spaces with extensive livestock or other sources of food (intensive farms that place animal carcasses or offal in open spaces). Concentrate in large flocks in areas with food abundance. In Europe the adult birds are mostly sedentary, while juveniles disperse over larger areas.

Distribution
The global population of the species is estimated approximately at 7 800–10 500 pairs or 15 600–21 000 mature individuals.
Breeds in Europe and Asia, with highest numbers in Western Europe – Spain (80–90 % of the population or 2548 pairs, 2018), Portugal (18 pairs, 2016) and France (37 pairs, 2018). The Black vulture became extinct from Albania, Croatia, Italy, North Macedonia and Bulgaria, and probably is decreasing in Asia, where no conservation measures are implemented. With small and isolated populations in Ukraine and Greece (Dadia), where remains the only breeding colony of the species on the Balkans.

Distribution in Bulgaria
During the 19th and the first decades of 20th century the Black vulture was widespread in Bulgaria, but with lower numbers compared with the Griffon vulture.
Until 1960 the species numbers has extremely decreased and barely seen in the country. The last proofed nest with fledgling has been recorded in 1993 in the area of Studen Kladenets during an expedition, led by a Green Balkans’ team. Unfortunately in 1994 the nest was abandoned. There are no evidence for breeding Black vultures in the period 1995-2006 in the territory of Bulgaria. As a result of the conservation measures and the regularly supplementary feeding in the area of Byala reka and Valchi dol reserve, feeding individuals are observed frequently. The largest group of 42 Black vultures is registered in 2000 on the feeding station in Pelevun, maintained by Green Balkans.
The presence of Black vultures in the area of Eastern Rhodope is based mainly on the movement of individuals, breeding in Dadia Forest National Park in Greece, which is in close proximity to the Bulgarian border.

Threats
The species has become extinct from the country due to a host of factors, acted with varying intensity at different time periods, such as human persecution and perception towards birds of prey as a “harmful game species” in the middle of the 20th century, use of poisonous baits, destruction of habitats (deforestation) and reduction of their food base due to changes in livestock management and increase of the veterinary and sanitary requirements. However, the main reason for both the Black and the Bearded Vulture’ extinction along with the critical decreasing of the Griffon and the Egyptian Vulture population was the well-organized, long-term and widespread national campaign for predator poisoning in the period from 1958 to 1970, continuing until 1990.
 
Now, most of the above factors are under control. The use of poisoning baits is prohibited and birds of prey are strictly protected. Protected areas with valuable habitats for many endangered species, including vultures, have been created. Although the decision of the European Commission, adapted by the Bulgarian veterinary authorities that allows the supplementary feeding of vultures, the food base is far from the potential which this region has.

Other threats for vultures are dangerous power lines and risk of electrocutions.
Today the main factor hindering the restoration of the Black Vulture population is its extremely small number in the region (only 31 pairs in Dadia, Greece).

Actions
Thanks to the efforts of the partners of the project "Bright Future for the Black Vulture" LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649, in 2021 the first restored pair of black vultures successfully nested, hatched and raised a little. You can read more information here: https://greenbalkans.org/VulturesBack/en/The-first-hatched-Black-Vulture-for-the-last-28-years-is-now-a-fact-.p6404

снимка: Любомир Андреев - Лупи

Educational activities
Green Balkans works on a long-term program to maintain a stable population of the species in nature, which also includes changing the mindset and mood of the public towards the species through information and educational campaigns throughout the country.