Because it is a migratory species, the protection of Egyptian vultures is more difficult than it is for the Griffon vulture, the Black vulture and the Bearded vulture.
Protecting the most threatened European vulture implies knowing its migratory routes and wintering areas. Therefore, these last ten years, researchers and environmentalists have been equipping bearded vultures with monitoring devices to document migration. The magazine “Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution” now publishes articles by scientists from Europe and the Middle East in which they combine their data and compare the various migratory routes of Egyptian vultures.
As we can see on the video created from this data, the birds nesting in Spain and France have the shortest migration.
They cross the Strait of Gibraltar then heading southward to winter in Senegal, Mauritania and Mali. It is a 3000 km long trip which lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.
Migration takes longer for the birds nesting in the Balkans as they must fly over the Middle East to avoid large bodies of water and risk drowning. Their trip is therefore 2000 km longer than that of the French and Spanish vultures, which means an additional 1 to 3 weeks.
Egyptian vultures, as other species, use columns of hot and ascending air to rise up to hundreds of meters almost effortlessly and then gradually glide over a few kilometers until they meet another hot air column. From one “lift” to another, they reach Africa flying about 200 kms/day.
This strategy is very efficient on mainland but not over the sea because there are no ascending currents. Most Egyptian vultures which risked a shortcut and crossed the Mediterranean sea drowned as they were too tired to keep flying.
This data shows birds can fly over very long distances, the longest being 10 983 kms!
The study also found that birds nesting in one part of Europe will nest in the same part of Africa : Western European birds winter in Western Africa and Eastern European birds nest in Eastern Africa or the Arabic peninsula. However, high migration variability has been noticed concerning sub-populations, nesting birds from the Balkans for example : some wintered in Niger and others in Yemen, that is a 4000 km stretch of desert between them !
This wide distribution means real challenges for the conservation of the species as the threats birds face can vary from one country to another. Therefore each of the various threats must be prevented in each of the different countries. This research is a first essential step to have a better understanding of the threats faced by Egyptian Vulture and act accordingly in each of the different countries.
This is only possible thanks to transcontinental collaboration. We must therefore thank all and every conservation organizations and research groups who contribute to this study. Cohesion is essential and contributes to the implementation of concrete conservation actions of the Egyptian vultures.
To go further (EN): https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pascual_Lopez-Lopez/publication/335714626_Spatial_and_Temporal_Variability_in_Migration_of_a_Soaring_Raptor_Across_Three_Continents/links/5d7744044585151ee4ab1c65/Spatial-and-Temporal-Variability-in-Migration-of-a-Soaring-Raptor-Across-Three-Continents.pdf