Record breeding season for Bearded Vultures in Alps
Bearded Vulture has enjoyed a record-breaking 2021-2022 breeding season in the Alps and on Corsica, with 49 juveniles fledging.
The population in the Alps is continuing to grow, with the number of pairs increasing and the spatial distribution expanding. The most recent breeding census revealed that the 49 youngsters came from 80 territories in the Alpine range and Corsica. Seven of them were from newly established territories.
This news sets a new record for the Alpine population, with five more birds fledging in 2021-2022 compared to the previous season.
Bearded Vultures are the earliest breeders of the four European vulture species. Bearded Vultures in the Alps usually start to lay eggs in late December and continue up until February, with parents sharing brooding responsibilities until the chick hatches after an average of 54 days.
This special breeding period is related to the diet of the chicks, which cannot digest bone, so the species has evolved to hatch towards the end of winter when there is potentially a plentiful supply of food. This includes animals that died from avalanches and are then exposed to the thawing snow, or those that didn't survive the hard winter conditions, leaving plenty of carcasses for parents to feed chicks.
The species was driven to extinction in the Alps during the 20th Century, and to bring them back, pioneers from all Alpine countries initiated a reintroduction project in the 1970s. The first birds were released in 1986 at Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria, and in 1997 the first breeding pair successfully raised a chick in the wild in France. Today, there are between 250-300 Bearded Vultures across the Alps.