First Nest in the World of Captive-bred Egyptian Vulture Found in Israel

Two birds spotted years after their start at a nearby incubation center in the north of the country

FILE Photo: An Egyptian vulture.
Wikimedia Commons/DickDaniels

The first nest in the world of an Egyptian vulture raised in an egg incubation center and released to the wild was recently found in the Carmel region in the north.

Egyptian vultures haven’t nested in the Carmel for almost 50 years.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has staffed a permanent observation post on a cliff in the region in recent weeks, and one day, observers were delighted to spot the nest. They were even happier when they discovered that the two birds who built the nest came from the nearby incubation center in the Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve.

>> Read more: Vulture severely hurt in Golan poisoning released back to nature ■ To prevent more vulture deaths, we need harsher penalties | Analysis

The female vulture was born eight years ago and was released in the Carmel one year later. The male was born in 2014 and was released at the end of that year.

Egyptian vultures mainly eat carcasses. “They’re experts at cracking eggshells,” said the nature authority’s avian ecologist, Ohad Hatzofe. “It’s in grave danger of extinction worldwide, and in most of the places where it’s found, its population is declining.”

Thirty years ago, there were about 150 nesting pairs of Egyptian vultures in Israel, but the number has dropped below 60 in recent years. The birds stopped nesting in the Carmel in the ‘60s, and two decades later, there was only one pair in the entire Galilee.

One member of that pair was poisoned last year, but was found and treated at the Ramat Gan Safari’s animal hospital. He was then released back into the wild and migrated to Sudan, where he is currently nesting.

To help the Egyptian vultures and other raptors, a project called Porsim Kanaf was launched 23 years ago. It is a joint venture by the nature authority, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Israel Electric Corporation. The project raises Egyptian vultures, Griffon vultures and other raptors in egg incubation centers and then returns them to the wild.

Every year, six to eight Egyptian vulture chicks are raised in the Carmel incubation center. To date, 58 of them have been released in the wild. They are banded and carry transmitters so they can be monitored even when they migrate to other countries.

Most of them spend the winter in Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen and then return to Israel. Some have died, either in Israel or abroad. Aside from poisoning, other dangers vultures face include electrocution by high-voltage lines and shootings by hunters along the birds’ migration routes.

To help Egyptian vultures and Griffon vultures in the Carmel, the nature authority operates a feeding station where the birds can eat animal carcasses collected from various locations. At that station, one can often see both kinds of vultures side by side eating the carcasses.