Fate of satellite-tracked Egyptian vultures in the Balkans

13.03.2017

This study aims to assess the mortality causes for the Balkan population of Egyptian Vulture along the flyway based on telemetry data. Since 2010, 28 individual Egyptian Vultures have been tracked with satellite transmitters from the Balkans, of which 23 were juvenile and 5 were adult birds.

By mid-October 2016, 87.5% of the juveniles had died (n = 21 birds), and 40% of the adult birds (n = 2). The average time that tagged juveniles survived was 297 days (range 7 – 1516 days), while it was 462 days for adult birds (range 281 – 642 days). Note that birds that are still alive are excluded from these metrics. For the two recorded adult mortalities, one bird was poisoned in Greece, the other bird died of unknown causes in Ethiopia 1.5 years after being tagged in Greece.

Among the juvenile mortalities, the leading cause of death was poor navigation leading to drowning in the Mediterranean Sea (n = 9, 43% of mortalities). Six juvenile birds died of unknown causes (29%), and one bird (5%) was likely predated by a natural predator (eagle). For two birds (10%) there was unequivocal evidence that the birds had been shot by humans either for market trade in Nigeria or for another reason, and one further bird was likely to have been shot in Sudan.

The Mediterranean Sea was the single most important area for mortality of all birds (39% of all confirmed mortalities). The other mortalities were widely spread in both the Balkans (n = 3) and in Africa (n = 18), but no mortalities occurred along the flyway through Turkey and the Middle East (Fig. 1).

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