New breeding colony of cinereous vultures confirmed in the Greater Côa Valley

Posted: 15th December 2021

Rewilding Portugal

At the beginning of November, Rewilding Portugal confirmed the existence of a colony of cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus), which confirmed reproductive success in several pairs in the Malcata Reserve. This is excellent news for a species that is still critically endangered in Portugal and of which only about 40 pairs are known, distributed in two main colonies in the Tejo International Natural Park and in Alentejo.

In Northeastern Portugal, only two pairs were known in the Douro International Natural Park and one pair in the Malcata Reserve, where ICNF confirmed reproductive success in the summer of 2021. The discovery of more pairs places the Malcata Reserve as the third largest breeding nucleus of cinereous vultures in Portugal.

New nests of cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) were discovered thanks to the tagging of a juvenile by the Rewilding Portugal team.

Until now, the ELP-funded project has confirmed a total of three nests, and there may still be more pairs in this colony. Therefore, in the coming months, monitoring efforts will continue. The discovery of the nests was possible thanks to the tracking of the movements of a juvenile that was tagged by Rewilding Portugal with a GPS/GSM transmitter on the 26th of November, in collaboration with CIBIO. Following the movements of this juvenile allowed the team to discover the first of three nests where the juvenile, born in the reserve, still cohabits with its parents. In the second nest, another juvenile was observed and in the third a pair.

The tagging of vultures with a GPS/GSM transmitter is providing more information about the species’ ecology. The focus of the work carried out by Rewilding Portugal is to obtain more information about its spatial and food ecology and, in particular, how they use the habitat, protected areas, and food resources in the Greater Côa Valley. The team is also trying to determine the impact of environmental restoration actions developed by the organization, for example, promoting conditions to increase the number of wild herbivores, introducing semi-wild horses and promoting the licensing of Private Areas for Feeding Scavenger Birds, where the corpses of ruminants are available to vultures on livestock farms, rather than being buried or collected (provided for in the PACAN – Action Plan for the Conservation of Scavenger Birds, approved in August 2019).

This work is an extension of the ELP-funded work to help recover the populations of scevenger birds that are vital to a healthy ecosystem.

Since 2019 this work has been developed with other scavenger birds, such as griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus), in collaboration with CIBIO as part of the Endangered Landscapes Programme and in line with actions to recover the populations of scavenger birds in Europe coordinated by Rewilding Europe. There are several threats to the cinereous vulture in Portugal: shocks from power lines, poisoning, human disturbance and habitat destruction. Scavenger birds play an important role in removing corpses from nature, contributing to the recycling of dead matter and preventing its accumulation, eliminating potential sources of disease. They are the last link in the food chain, and a key part of a healthy ecosystem. We are glad to see their populations increasing.


More information about the work funded by the ELP in Portugal please see the Greater Côa Valley project page.

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