The Egyptian Vulture in Turkey [ 2010-04-16 13:15:23 ]


The Egyptian Vulture undergoes through a rapid population decline in most of its distribution range. Turkey still holds one of the biggest populations of the species and it is roughly estimated at 1500 - 3000 pairs. From the ecology it is known that when a species is in decline, the process is most marked in the periphery of the range. Therefore the health status of the turkish population probably greatly influences the status of the most northern Balkan population, where the species is still surviving in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia.
In 2009 Doga Dernegi-the BirdLife partner in Turkey started field campaign of  monitoring and research of the density of population of the Egyptian Vulture to the west of Ankara.
From 2nd to 11th of April, 2010, during the period before egg laying, experts of BSPB (BirdLife Bulgaria) helped the colleagues from Doga Dernegi to carry out an initial survey on the Egyptian Vulture aiming census of the breeding  territories and localizing of the breeding cliffs of each pair in an area of about 2000 square kilometers. Of the minimum 52 of the breeding territories, 49 are occupied by pairs, recorded for six full field days. Probably significant number of the existing pairs in the study area remained undiscovered and we estimate the total number of the species at between 70-90 territorial pairs. The distance between the neighboring pairs was extremely high, from the sort of the highest recorded in Europe during the last 10-20 years. There were often observed neighboring pairs occupied breeding cliffs distanced on just about a kilometer one from another. In spite of this territorial conflicts between the neighboring pairs were observed only in a few cases. The observed high density and weakly expressed intraspecific territorial behavior are probably result of abundant food supply and very good breeding habitat. The abundant food for the vultures in the region is result of the well preserved extensive animal husbandry (hundreds of folds isolated from the villages holding more than a hundred domestic animals in each fold) and the operating municipal rubbish dump site, where a huge amount of organic waste is being daily disposed (120 Egyptian Vultures feeding on the dump site are observed there). Because of the attractiveness of the area for the vultures, it can not be a good indicator for the status of the species in Turkey because it probably attracts birds for breeding fledged in distant sites and thus keeping their constant high number. Similar place for the Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria is the region around Madjarovo where the species remains stable in spite of the decrease of the national population almost 50% in the last 7 years. Unfortunately such places can easily become an ecological traps and this makes them of key importance for the conservation of the species. Theoretically the extinction process in radius of a few hundred kilometers around Ankara could largely be driven by periodically happening poisonings and worsening of the health status of the birds after consuming polluted food from the rubbish dump. The species marks significant decline in the western part of Turkey but reliable data is missing and the exact reasons for the decline are not clarified. Quite possibly like in Bulgaria, the decline is due also to increased mortality on the migration routes and in the wintering grounds in Africa.
Besides of the Egyptian Vulture, during the study there were discovered also more than a hundred breeding territories of other cliff-nesting species: Long-Legged Buzzard (55), Black Stork (25), Raven (13), Golden Eagle (6), Peregrine Falcon (4), Bearded Vulture (1).
We thank to our colleagues from Doga Dernegi, special thanks to Bilgecan Sen, Jose Tavares and Mark Day from RSPB.


Hundreds of kilograms of eggs attracting 30 Egyptian Vultures together, twice more Ravens and one Grey Heron. Nest of Egyptian Vulture just behind an livestock fold Combination already lost in Bulgaria
Hundreds of kilograms of eggs attracting 30 Egyptian Vultures together, twice more Ravens and one Grey Heron. Nest of Egyptian Vulture just behind an livestock fold Combination already lost in Bulgaria
Neighbors Isolated from inhabited places, fold for extensive animal husbandry.
Neighbors Isolated from inhabited places, fold for extensive animal husbandry.
The Sariyar reservoir-part of the study area. The feeding place: abundant choice and stalking threats in the food
The Sariyar reservoir-part of the study area. The feeding place: abundant choice and stalking threats in the food