Record 35 chicks expected to leave nests this year in successful wildlife comeback
Fri 2 Aug 2019 09.00 BSTLast modified on Fri 2 Aug 2019 14.35 BST
This summer, as the snows finally melt across the Alps, a record 35 bearded vulture chicks are expected to leave their nests and take to the skies to patrol their mountain home, in one of the most successful wildlife comebacks of recent times.
“Bearded vultures were hunted to extinction in the Alps in the early 20th century. People referred to them as the devil bird believing that they would carry off small children and sheep,” said Théo Mazet, who works for Asters, a French wildlife organisation helping to bring the birds back to the Alps.
But attitudes have changed and the vultures have made a dramatic return, albeit with a helping hand.
“A captive breeding and reintroduction project began in the late 1980s and there are now a total of 250 birds, including 50 breeding pairs of bearded vultures in the Alps,” said Mazet.
Mazet works at a specialist captive breeding centre in a secluded forest high above the alpine town of Sallanches, one of five centres in the mountain range.
Here Mazet prepares food for the seven vultures housed in the centre’s massive aviary. He carefully weighs chunks of freshly butchered sheeps’ and goats’ legs for the birds – the only avian species to live on a diet of animal bones.
“Bearded vultures are scavengers and act as the rubbish collectors of the natural world which helps to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria and the spread of diseases, so keeping the mountain environment healthy,” he said.
Key to the project’s success has been the 100 captive vultures held in the breeding centres throughout Europe, which in turn are providing birds to be returned to the wild.
As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.