In Spain, momentum is building for vulture conservation

From the spring 2021 edition of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

Similar to vultures in Africa, the large scavengers were historically persecuted and poisoned across the Strait of Gibraltar in Spain. In the past few decades, new collision hazards for vultures have emerged in the form of power lines and wind turbines. And yet, as in Africa, conservationists in Spain have developed new and collaborative ways to protect vultures.

Spain is a stronghold for the critically endangered Egyptian vulture population in Europe. A 2018 census organized by the non-profit Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO Birdlife) found around 1,500 breeding pairs, up from 1,200 in 2008. Niki Williamson, co-owner of Spanish bird tour company Inglorious Bustards, says: “Spain’s conservation In an effort to address the most serious and immediate threats, this country has begun to reverse its decline. “

In the southern Spanish region of Andalusia – one of the places in the country where the vultures continue to decline – new efforts are being made to alleviate the obstacle course of the wind farm infrastructure. Wind farm companies have signed agreements with Fundación Migres (a non-profit bird conservation group) and local governments to reduce bird mortality. One project employs ornithologists to look for large groups of migratory birds of prey. When huge migrating swarms of vultures, eagles, honey buzzards or black kites appear in the sky, the ornithologists can switch off wind turbines using an app on their smartphone. “The entire shutdown process, from recognizing a risk to stopping the relevant turbine, takes less than a minute,” says Williamson.

Another program to mitigate the risk of wind farms is to experiment with additional feeding stations to lure resident Egyptian vultures away from the rotating turbines. “No Egyptian vultures have died in the wind farms since the process began,” says Williamson.

“The side effects of the project were also impressive!” she speaks of the great bird watching for many species at the additional feeding points. Customers at the “hottest table in town,” as Williamson calls it, included Eurasian griffon vultures, griffon vultures, black kites, buzzards, northern hawks, and even an adult Rüppell griffin (a typical Spanish vagabond normally found in sub-regions) ) Sahara Africa).