Saturday, September 05, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

Griffon Vulture

As you must have heard, today, 5 September 2009, is International Vulture Awareness Day.

Here are my experiences of vultures. My first encounter was with some friendly (or hungry?) Griffon Vultures in a French zoo. We walked through their enclosure and they flew over to perch on the handrail by the path. I wasn't scared but more impressed by their huge wingspans.

My next vultures were real, wild ones: Palm-nut Vultures in The Gambia. They get their name from their preference for Oil Palm nuts over meat. Odd birds.

I saw more wild, free vultures on a trip to Spain in 2005: Griffons again. We drove towards Tarifa, wending our way through hills, lakes and wind turbines. All the time, a stream of Griffons passed overhead on their barn-door wings. And at Punta de Paloma, we looked up and there were dozens of vultures circling around with even more swifts.

On another visit to Spain this year, we had the vulture experience again. While we sipped coffee and ate ice-creams at the mirador, Griffons appeared over the hills and Sparrowhawks, Booted Eagles, harriers and other birds of prey arrived from Africa, across the Strait of Gibraltar, in front of us.

In the mountains above the coast, we watched Griffons cruising at low level and landing at their cliffside nest. One bird brooded a chick, looking out across the Atlantic and over the hills while Bee-eaters made landfall and Spanish Festoon butterflies skittered past.

Unfortunately, things aren't very rosy for vultures in other places. Some vulture species in Asia are teetering on the brink of extinction, thanks to being poisoned by the veterinary drug Diclofenac which is used to treat cattle. BirdLife International and others are doing sterling work to breed them in captivity until Diclofenac is eliminated from the vultures' environment, and a Slender-billed Vulture chick has been reared in one of the giant Indian aviaries this year, but their future is far from secure...

photo taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM


  1. Lovely post Katie!

  2. Hi Katie,
    Yeh I saw this announcement in Kelly blog. it is nice to get a day for them as idea of people about them is quite erroneous! I've only see Turkey vulture in Chile, and that was all!

  3. Oh my gosh, Katie, KATIE!
    I can't believe it, I just can't!
    It is above me, beyond me and it washes over me!!
    The joy, the joy, and the amazement of the increadible feat:


    Thank you, thank you, it is overwhelming.
    I would like to thank everyone who has made this success story a reality, my family for their support, the authors of my butterfly identification guide and in particular, I would like to thank Katie Fuller, whose many photos and continued and faithful ridicule have been a constant source of motivation throughout this long and gruelling journey.
    Thank you, Katie, thank you always.

  4. Jeez, Jochen. It's about time, too! They'll all be gone in a few weeks... Er, congratulations :o)

  5. Yeah, I really feared they'd all be cold and dead before I get to see one. Autumn seems to be a month early this year and our leaves are almost through their colour shift - I was a tad nervous.