Last 26th of March 2008 the Aragon Government and the Spanish Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (FCQ) announced a new step on the conservation of the endangered population of the bearded vulture of the Spanish Pyrenees. A new assisted breeding technique is being developed in the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park which hopes to achieve the release of the first bearded vulture born in captivity and reared in human isolation following a program of behavioural learning by natural impront.
This technique has been used before with success in species with similar ecology such as the Californian Condor and the Andean Condor in Argentina, but never with the bearded vulture, which has been traditionally bred in captivity programs, like those carried out in the Alps or in Andalusia, with the help of unviable adult birds for the behavioural learning process. The management of the wild bearded vulture population by the Aragon Government in collaboration with the FCQ has been aimed to increase its demographic performance by extracting eggs layed in nests that have failed to breed (at least for the last 6 years), breeding them in a controlled environment and releasing them back to the wild population.
This process has been carried out successfully four times in the last years, following the traditional breeding technique with the help of breeding centres in central Europe. In this occasion, after the extraction of the egg in January and its eclosion in late February, the two week old chicken has been taken to a management platform built at 1500 meters in the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park, where the new technique is being developed.
The artificial nest offers two sides for the chicken. From the back a an FCQ expert manages the puppet that feeds the chicken and makes sure the temperature of the nest is correct, while on the other side a window offers a close view to dozens of wild bearded vultures that fly, feed and interact attracted by the supplementary feeding supplied by the National Park. This is the unique school where the chicken will learn the natural behaviour of the specie that will allow him to survive once he leaves the breeding platform on his first flight.
This will take place around 120 days after the eclosion of the egg, with the last 40 days of the process spent in a cage on the same platform that allows the chicken to exercise and keep on learning from the wild. Before its release the fledging will be marked with colour tags and a satellite transmitting device that will allow its monitoring in the following months.
Translation of the original Spanish news item on Quebrantahuesos.org