Identifying critical migratory bottlenecks and high‐use areas for the Egyptian Vulture

20.06.2018
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© Maurice Sabatier

The Egyptian vulture traveled as far as 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) in a single migration, at up to around 223 miles (360 km) per day. The vultures are just one species out of around 35 large soaring bird species that migrate along the Red Sea Flyway. There are dozens more small birds that migrate here, as well. It’s the second-largest migratory flyway in the world, behind only the Americas Flyway, which connects North and South America.

These data are part of the recently published paper in the Journal of Avian Biology: Identifying critical migratory bottlenecks and high‐use areas for an endangered migratory soaring bird across three continents created by an international scientific team headed by Evan  Buechley of the University Of Utah. Key data for the analyzes were also provided by the LIFE+ projects “The Return of the Neophron” (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) and “Egyptian Vulture new LIFE” (LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874).

A key challenge for the conservation of migrants is the identification of important habitat, including migratory concentration areas, because species survival rates may be determined by events in geographically very limited areas. Remote‐tracking technology is facilitating the identification of such critical habitat, although the strategic identification of important sites and incorporation of such knowledge in conservation planning remains limited.

The paper tracks 45 individuals of an endangered, soaring migrant (Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus), over 75 complete migrations that traversed three continents along the Red Sea Flyway. The 45 Egyptian Vultures were trapped and fitted with satellite transmitters between 2010 and 2016 in the Balkans (Bulgaria, Greece, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania), the Middle East (Turkey and Armenia), and Africa (Ethiopia and Djibouti).The most important sites are located at the southeastern Red Sea coast and Bab‐el‐Mandeb Strait (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti), the Suez Canal zone (Egypt), and the Gulf of Iskenderun (Turkey).

Discouragingly however, none of the area within the major migratory bottlenecks is protected and <13% of the high‐use areas are protected. This demonstrates a very concerning gap in the protected area network for migratory soaring birds along the Red Sea Flyway. Because reducing threats at migratory concentrations can be a very efficient approach to protect populations. The paper provides clear guidelines where conservation investment is urgently needed to benefit as many as 35 migratory soaring‐bird species that regularly use the Red Sea Flyway. The new LIFE project “The Return of the Neophron” will take into account these conclusions from the article in the implementation of thr conservation activities for the Balkan population of the Egyptian vulture in the bottlenecks of migration.

Find the article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jav.01629

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