Breeding Monitoring

Synthesis of the monitoring of the Egyptian vulture reproduction written by the LPO based on information collected in the field and transmitted to the 2 regional coordinators, Cécile Ponchon for the south-eastern population and Erick Kobierzycki for the Pyrenean population. We thank all the contributors.

Over a period of 20 years, until 2012/2013, the French population of Egyptian vultures from the Mediterranean areas to the Pyrénées saw an increase of its population until its number became stable by the end of the decade, for one group around 20 couples and for the second group around 70 couples.


Historical evolution of the French population of Egyptian vultures (number of territorial pairs). It must be noticed that the quality of the monitoring has greatly improved and that data before the 90’s may not have been entirely reliable. However, we can see that the population of Egyptian vultures numbered around 180 pairs in 1935.

The graph shows that, following a significant decrease of the populations for about 70 years, their number was on the rise again until the years 2000 to became stable at around 90 pairs from the year 2012 on (2012 was the best year since 1960).

Breeding population

The analysis of the breeding population shows that the number of breeding pairs has become stable in the South-East of France (13 ≤ n ≤ 20) and in the Pyrénées
(51 ≤ n ≤ 65). However the Pyrénées population varies and shows a loss of 13 breeding couples between 2017 and 2018.

Production of fledged birds

The number of fledged birds differs from one year to another. If, at the national level, the number of fledged birds varies between 48 and 74 depending on seasons with an average of 55 between 1997 and 2018, only once was it over 70 in 2011 (n = 74). The variations are identical in the two populations for the same year. It suggests the demographic parameters depend on national factors, not on regional ones.

If the year 2018 appears excellent for the number of fledged birds in the South-East, it is particularly bad in the Pyrénées where only 37 birds fledged. It is the worst of the 8 previous years in the Pyrénées.


The breeding parameters have been well studied at the national level over the last decades thanks to regular monitoring programs.

These programs have provided data necessary to study the dynamics of the French populations of Egyptian vultures.

  • Productivity : Number of fledged birds / Number of territorial pairs
  • Breeding success : Number of fledged birds / Number of breeding pairs
  • Rate of fledged birds : Number of fledged birds / Number of producing pairs

Comparison of breeding parameters 2017/2018

Rate of fledged birds

Over the last decade, the rate of fledged birds in the Pyrénées population has been low (1, 11) so much so that the fact a pair produces two fledglings is exceptional. In the South-East of France the rate of fledged birds was very good with an average of 1,36 between 1997 and 2004 before dropping to an average of 1,07 from 2005 to 2009. So, from 1999 to 2018, the rate of fledged birds was 1,24.


The graph below shows the productivity in the Pyrénées between 1999 and 2005 was less than that of the South-East of France (thanks to a high rate of fledged birds in the South-East. It changed in 2006, 2007 and 2008 when the productivity in the Pyrénées was higher than that of South-East. From 2010 on, the productivity in the two French groups looks more or less similar. Since 1999, the average productivity has been better in the South-east (0,78) than in the Pyrénées (0,67).
    On the whole, the evolution of productivity in the French population from 1998 to 2018 shows a declining tendency (see the linear trend graph above).

Therefore, the analysis of all the data concludes the French population of Egyptian vultures remains vulnerable with a small evolution of its number. The analysis of reproduction data confirms breeding in France is below the European average. The persistence of Egyptian vulture populations does not seem to be connected to breeding parameters.

Regionally-detailed reports are written by Erick Kobierzycki and Cecile Ponchon every year. They explain precisely the breeding seasons for each of the population groups and the field actions (ringing programmes and tele-monitoring).

Translated by Claudine Caillet


Migrating birds

See the News page


News about other Egyptian vulture populations in Europe

International Action Plan

After discussions between a number of experts from France and elsewhere, the need for a greater appreciation of the risks that Egyptian vultures face on their migratory journeys and when wintering in Africa featured as a key point in the International Action Plan.
This International Action Plan was drawn up and distributed on 30th November 2008, under the authority of BirdLife, with the involvement of its partners, including the LPO, and the support of the European Commission. This plan applies to Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus percnopterus) populations that, when breeding, stay in European Union countries (there are 9 relevant countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Austria). In addition, the plan covers the different areas in which the species is found and that encounter the same conservation problems – among others, this includes countries that have expressed their desire to join the European Union (Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey) as well as others around the whole Mediterranean region, Iberia, the Balkans, Anatolia and the Middle East, as far as the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Pakistan. The main aim of this International Action Plan is to help to improve the conservation status of Egyptian vultures across the whole of their area of distribution so that, eventually (by 2018), they are no longer considered an endangered species but enjoy a favourable status, with populations of the bird increasing between now and 2015. This plan establishes a series of initiatives in response to the threats that the species faces. In particular, it aims to:

  • ban the use of poisoned bait that is employed to combat species that are considered pests and predatory mammals,
  • reduce poisoning risks (disposing of foreign waste, waste sites),
  • reduce the risks of lead poisoning caused by the consumption of contaminated carcasses,
  • reduce the risks of electricity grids and wind farms being causes of death,
  • reform European regulations limiting the extent to which vultures can feed on locally produced meat-based material,
  • promote traditional and extensive pastoral farming, ultimately with new herds and flocks being introduced,
  • reduce the risks of breeding grounds being disturbed by ensuring that nearby economic activity is better organized,
  • ensure that the events that regulate Egyptian vultures’ migratory journeys and their post-breeding time in Africa are better understood by putting a European programme of telemetric tracking into place.

The International Action Plan thus forms an appropriate framework for cooperation in order to ensure greater consistency in the initiatives that are carried out to benefit the species in Europe. It should also enable greater synergy in the measures taken to better evaluate and understand the threats that Egyptian vultures face across the different territories in which they are found as well as being more efficient in eliminating such threats.


Natural knackery – Feeding areas and obligatory financial contributions

The term ‘knackery’ refers to the specialist industry of collecting, processing and disposing of animal carcasses and organic waste of animal origin. The specialist nature of this work means that it provides a public service. Knackery companies carry out a range of tasks:

  • Collecting and then destroying animal carcasses weighing more than 40 kilograms or animal carcasses with no weight limit, as well as offal and animal by-products from abattoirs deemed unfit for human or animal consumption or posing a specific risk as regards transmissible spongiform encephalopathy;
  • Removing contamination and pollution risks;
  • Limiting the spread of infectious diseases, some of which can be transmissible to humans.

Until the start of the twentieth century, there was very little regulatory control of knackery in France and animals had to be buried only in cases of contagious diseases. Clause L. 226-2 of France’s Code Rural [Rural Code] then introduced a ban on burying, disposing of (in any location) or incinerating animal carcasses or collections of animal carcasses weighing over 40 kilograms.
Knackery regulations in France came into force gradually:

  • On 15th February 1902, a twenty-eighth clause was introduced into the Loi relative à la Santé Publique [Law on Public Health], which was subsequently known as the Loi Martel. The first legislative texts covering how to deal with carcasses were incorporated into the Code Rural as a result (clauses L 226-1 to L 226-9 of the Code Rural, brought together in Chapter VI: ‘Animal by-products’).
  • 2nd February 1942 marked an increasingly organized approach towards knackery (collecting and disposing of carcasses) with a ban on unmonitored individuals and groups disposing of animal carcasses.
  • In June 1996, with the ‘mad cow’ crisis, France created legislation to dispose of meat and bone meal and fats from dead animals. The French government then went on to play a direct role in the economic system, creating the Service Public de l’Equarrissage (SPE) [France’s Public Service for Knackery]. In 1997, the knackery service became state-owned following the problems with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The French government announced an invitation to tender and made agreements with companies that were appointed to carry out this service.
  • In January 1997, this service became funded by a tax on meat trading. In essence, retail butchers were exempt from this charge, which applied to businesses that exceeded a set turnover limit. Supermarkets were the main contributors to this funding.
  • In 2001, after an unproductive national invitation to tender and as a result of unsuitable specifications, the French government decided to requisition the companies that had previously managed the SPE, in line with market rates at the time.
  • On 31st December 2003, the tax on meat purchases that applied to meat distributors, known as the ‘taxe d’équarrissage’ (knackery tax), was removed. The French government’s decision to do this came after observations made by the European Union (EU), regarding competition distortion in relation to guidelines for fair competition between producers in different EU member states.
  • In 2004, a new tax was created, exclusively applying to abattoirs, to fund the SPE. This new ‘taxe d’abattage’ (slaughtering tax) is based on:

• the volume of SRM (Specified Risk Material) and the material produced by the abattoir,
• the Carcass Weight Equivalent (CWE). The overall figure for this slaughtering tax, set out in the Loi des Finances [French budgetary legislation] for 2005, was 86 million euros within a total budget of around €250 million.

  • 2005 saw the Service Public de l’Equarrissage being reformed – this led to, among other things:

• Decree n° 2005/1658 of 26th December 2005, modifying decree n° 2005-1220 of 28th September 2005, which set out the new remit of the Service Public de l’Equarrissage (clause L.226-1 of the Code Rural). From 1st January 2006, material from butchers was no longer part of the remit of the Service Public de l’Equarrissage, which then applies only to animals found dead in farms and carcasses that it is in the public interest to dispose of.
• Decree n° 2006-877 of 13th July 2006 which transferred the management of the Service Public de l’Equarrissage to the Office de l’Elevage [France’s Farming Office], and decree n° 2006-878 of 13th July, which transferred the management of the agreements for disposing of meat and bone meal that was amassed during the BSE crisis to the Office de l’Elevage.
• The order issued on 13th July 2006, amended by the orders issued on 23th October 2007 and 29th July 2008 (implementing clause L.226-9 of the Code Rural) which ties farmers’ financial contributions to the costs of disposing of carcasses and sets out the ways in which the actual weight for collection, and which is the basis for calculating these contributions, should be determined.