How’s the Lammergeier doing in the Pyrenees?

Recent trends of the Lammergeier – Bearded Vulture – population in Catalonia, Spain

The Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, is one of Europe’s most endangered bird species. At the beginning of the 20th Century in Catalonia (northeast Spain) the Lammergeier was present in the Pyrenees and the Ports of Tortosa, in the south. Due mostly to direct persecution it soon disappeared from the Ports and, at the same time, there was a serious decline in the population of the Pyrenees, regressing from east to west. At the beginning of the 1980s there were only five or six pairs remaining in the western “comarques” of Catalonia.

Lammergeier in flight

Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, in flight over the Pyrenees

Then the Lammergeier started a slow recovery. In 2013 42 Lammergeier territories were identified with 84 adults across the Pyrenees of Catalonia and into the Pre-Pyrenees. Currently there are 48 Lammergeier territories in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, which represents 33% of the total for the whole of the Pyrenees (Spain, France and Andorra).

The main factors in the Lammergeier’s decline were poisoning, hunting, electrocution and egg-stealing. On the other side of the coin, the Lammergeier’s recent cautious recovery can at least in part be attributed to increased legal protection and to the contribution of supplementary feeding stations which have appeared in the last two decades in the Pyrenees and Pre-Pyrenees.

Nevertheless, there is still cause for concern from mortality factors such as poisoning, collision with electric cables, and lead poisoning deriving from the bullets used in hunting.

There is an ongoing Lammergeier captive breeding scheme, which has led to a number of birds being released in Andalusia, the Maestrazgo (both regions of Spain), and in the Grands Causses in France.

The Lammergeier is included in Annexe 1 of the Community Directive 79/409/EEC on birds.

Lammergeier in flight

Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, in flight over the Pyrenees

Click the following link for a visual summary of the Lammergeier’s status in Catalonia:

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