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Result of the July scavenger birds’ count
11 July 2013

This week took place the last counts of scavenger birds and other birds of prey of the breeding season of 2013, under the scope of Habitat Lince Abutre LIFE project. Regarding the Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), this project’s target species, the results obtained throughout this period seem to confirm a higher use of the study area (presence of a higher number of individuals) during the breeding season.

The data, still provisional, indicate that in the Guadiana Valley might have been observed 4 to 5 Black Vultures, 50 to 54 Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) and 1 second-year juvenile Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Given the results obtained in previous counts, the high temperatures might have contributed to the lower number of Black Vultures and Griffon Vultures detected (about half). However, contrary to the last counts, these birds probably did not stay overnight in the dormitory known near one of the bird observatories, which may have contributed to a higher number of individuals detected in the previous counts. At the Guadiana Valley were also observed 5 to 6 Iberian Imperial Eagles (Aquila adalberti), 3 to 5 Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), 2 to 4 Black Kites (Milvus migrans) and 2 Ravens (Corvus corax). Besides the mandatory or optional scavengers were also observed 12 to 16 Short-toed Snake Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), 4 to 5 Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata), 2 to 4 Bonelli’s Eagles (Aquila fasciata), 5 to 6 Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and 5 to 6 Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus). The higher number of Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) detected, between 35 to 42, was mainly due to an unusual concentration of 28 individuals perched in an aerial at Alcaria Hills.
The number of Black Vultures detected in the Guadiana Valley was inferior to the last counts. However, at Moura/Mourão/Barrancos we observed the opposite, with the results, still preliminary, indicating the presence of 12 to 18 individuals. At this SPA the number of Griffon Vultures detected varies between 288 and 379 individuals, and among the facultative scavengers we counted at least 3 Golden Eagles, an estimated number of Black Kites superior to 30 and 1 raven. Among the non-scavenger species of birds of prey we identified 7 to 13 Short-toed Snake Eagles, 3 to 5 Bonelli’s Eagles, 4 to 8 Booted Eagles, 7 to 13 Common Buzzards, 7 to 10 Common Kestrels, 2 Montagu’s Harriers and possibly 1 Peregrin Falcon (Falco peregrinus). However, the number of small and medium birds of prey may be underestimated – at least in some points the detectability may have been affected by the high temperatures felt, heatwaves and intense luminosity, as well as by long distance dust, distorting the image sharpness in binoculars and telescope, registering an increase in the number of individuals which correct identification was not possible. That only occurred with the smallest species and not with the big scavenger and soaring birds which are priority to the project. At Moura/Mourão/Barrancos we also detected 3 to 5 Black Storks (Ciconia nigra), 1 Great Bustard (Otis tarda), some Black-belied Sandgrouses (Pterocles orientalis) and also the presence of Eurasian Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus). We also detected 2 Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) near the Estação Biológica do Garducho.

Overall, in these counts we observed 7 mandatory or facultative scavenger species (including the raven) and 7 other bird of prey species.

The team of Habitat Lince Abutre LIFE project thanks for the pleasant company and dedication of Filipa Machado, Carlos Silva, Tiago Batista, Perrine Raquez, Rita Ramos, Tatiana and José, the volunteers that helped us secure these bird counts.