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Vulture reaches places that others do not

Photo: Silvio A. Rusmigo

An eight-year-old Griffon Vulture brought to Cyprus from Crete as part of a conservation project, has been dubbed the “ultimate wanderer” by BirdLife Cyprus after covering a total of 4,683km in just two months.

The bird, called CAA, was born in early 2013 in Crete and was transported, along with other individuals, to Cyprus in the same year as part of the Project GYPAS in an effort to boost Cyprus’ Griffon Vulture population, BirdLife Cyprus said.

After spending a year and a few months in a suitably designed acclimatisation aviary managed by the Game and Fauna Service, the bird was released back into the wild in February 2015.

Thanks to the LIFE with Vultures project, CAA was fitted with a GPS device in mid-September 2020 and the project team is now able to closely monitor its movements, gaining valuable information on the population’s feeding and home ranges.

Griffon Vultures, in Cyprus and in other countries, concentrate their daily travels in the middle of the day, when thermal updrafts are strongest.

From what has been shown by other studies and also through the GPS tracking monitoring vultures in Cyprus, the beginning of spring is always marked by a significant increase in the distances travelled.

However, this behaviour does not apply to all individuals. Breeding individuals stay close to their nesting site, while non-breeding individuals largely abandon the breeding colonies and start to wander around to forage and explore new areas.

Of the four Griffon Vultures currently fitted with GPS devices, CAA seems to be the ultimate wanderer. In less than two months (March-April) it travelled the farthest, covering a total of 4,683km. The second most wandering bird Ikaros, aged four, covered around 3,220km.

GPS tracking data showed that CAA wanders to areas that no other local vulture does (or at least no other GPS-tagged or observed individual).

However, in the past, Cretan birds that were imported to Cyprus under the GYPAS project have explored similar areas. Most of these areas are located far from the usual home and core ranges of the Cyprus Griffon Vulture population.

During the timeframe mentioned above, CAA almost covered the whole coastline of Cyprus, exploring Nicosia, Larnaca, Famagusta, and even Kyrenia, flying over Pentadactylos mountains.

One day the bird travelled from Episkopi along the coast to Larnaca, Famagusta and overnighted at Rizokarpaso on the Karpasia peninsula. The following day, it travelled back to Episkopi following the same route. Furthermore, CAA visited other historical feeding and breeding grounds on the island. It also explored areas in Paphos district such as Polis Chrysochous and reached the very tip of the Akamas Peninsula.

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