Last year, while most of us were locked down and staying local, the UK had at least one dramatic tourist in the form of a bearded vulture. I wrote about the story at the time, in particular the fallacious idea that vultures had once been native.
The vulture was nicknamed ‘Vigo’ and ended up staying in the UK until October, mainly in the Peak District, before heading off over the Channel to France and onward to the mountains.
The exact origin of ‘Vigo’ was of interest, because whether a bird is a true wild-bred individual, or one from a reintroduction programme, affects how it is recorded in the official lists of British birds. I was fortunate enough to see this species, along with griffon vultures, in the Picos D’Europa prior to reintroductions.
Fortunately, a few feathers of the vulture were recovered and this meant genetic analysis could be carried out. This revealed ‘Vigo’ was in fact ‘Flysch’, the wild-born offspring of a wild male, and a captive-bred female. She fledged in the French Alps in summer 2019.
The pair have been together in the same territory since 2016, and have raised chicks successfully every year since, bar in 2020 when the chick died young.
These breeding successes, and the recent appearance of the species in the UK, show the reintroductions are working. This doesn’t mean the species is safe, and shooting, poisoning, and aerial collisions are all risks to these birds.
Hopefully Flysch will go on to establish a territory of her own and contribute to the restoration of this magnificent bird.