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Ν. ΈβρουSights: The Black Vulture

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The Black Vulture

The Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is the largest raptorial bird in Europe and is today a rare and endangered species. There are about 250 couples in Europe, 50 of them living in Greece, and more specifically in Olympus and the National Park of Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli.

Until about 60 years ago, the black vultures used to fly all over continental Greece and Crete. However, like in other European areas, the changes in farming and agriculture pushed the black vultures towards the verge of extinction. The black vulture feeds almost exclusively with other animal carcasses. In older times, farmed animals used to live outdoors which created many chances for the black vultures to eat. However, the animals were later put in stables, which importantly decreased the vulture’s food sources and therefore also decreased their population. At the same time, the use of poisonous baits from farmers in order to get rid of other animals was another factor that led to the demographic shrinking of the vultures. In the 80s, there were only 25 black vultures in Greece, a population that seemed unable to keep the species from extinction. However, thanks to the concentrated efforts of environmental organizations, this population managed to recuperate and today only in the Dadia forest there are 100 individuals.

The black vulture does not migrate and it rarely flies away from its reproductive area. It’s also remarkable that it mates for life. In January, the parents build the nest, which can with time reach up to 1m height and 2m width. At the end of February and beginning of March, the female lays one egg, which both parents hatch for 55-60 days. The little bird becomes independent at the age of 3.5 months and flies away from the nest, while it becomes reproductively mature when it’s 5-6 years old.

The black vulture is really a flying giant since its wings can be up to 3m wide. Due to its size and its aggression, it outmatches other raptors when it comes to food distribution. However, it rarely hunts; instead it feeds with carcasses of dead animals. At the forest of Dadia in the district of Evros, there is a spot where specialists leave food for the vultures when they are in need. However, in spite of the protection measures, even today some individuals happened to be poisoned by the baits the farmers use to get rid of other animals, like foxes and badgers.

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