Where Vultures Dare

Vultures. Our minds flash to images of hot and scorching African plains where large black silhouettes soar high above the ground, searching for any carrion that might litter the savannah. Or, maybe you think of huge mountainous regions where vultures circle the tallest peaks and nest on precipices. So, what am I getting at here? Well, basically that you have to go a little further afield than the UK to see a wild vulture. Or so we thought, you see in the UK, a country totally devoid of any wild vultures, there is a rumor. A rumor that has spread like wild fire amongst birders and many others, because apparently, a bearded vulture has been spotted over moorland in Devon and the Severn estuary.



No! Let’s not be silly! But this is far too late for an April fools joke, so what is going on? Vultures do not live wild in the UK. Quite so, but if this sighting is confirmed and if it is indeed confirmed to be a wild bird, it will be the first vulture to ever be recorded in the UK! In addition, this sighting was no fleeting glimpse, with the bird being filmed on the Welsh side of the Second Severn Crossing, sitting on rocks before taking off into the sky. Now, as we can imagine, this news has caused something of a stir amongst the birding community and already hundreds of birders have flocked to the sighting area to try and catch a glimpse of this bird.

This same bird is also thought to have been seen in Dartmoor flying over moorland. Though our vulture is not an adult, but a juvenile and is therefore slightly smaller, this bird is still something of a magnificent specimen to be seen. But what’s it doing in the UK? Well, this is believed to be the same bird as one, which was spotted in Belgium a few weeks ago. It has been suggested that our vulture could be one of those bearded vultures that have been released in the Alps as part of a reintroduction initiative. However, those reintroduced birds all have dyed feathers so that they can be monitored and recognised and as of yet, this vulture has yet to be seen with obviously dyed feathers. It’s true Bearded vultures have a wide range across the globe, from Europe to Africa to Asia, but a wild vulture in the UK is, as we have already discussed, something of a novelty.



Bearded vultures also have something of a sinister reputation as far as vultures go. All vultures seem to have this reputation though don’t they? After all, they scavenge the bodies of dead animals and there will forever be that image that has been used and seen so many times, of vultures circling or following dying creatures, waiting for their meal. So, what’s different about the bearded vulture? It lives entirely on bones. Bone marrow to precise and is the only bird of prey to do so. Of course, we know that doesn’t make him sinister. Its just the way he is.

So, our bearded vulture is turning into something of a celebrity. Where is he? What’s he doing here? Can we photograph him? So far, we are still trying to solve these mysteries and the question of where he or she may be now. Although we may not know where this bird is now, one thing is for sure; we will know the whereabouts of hundreds of birders over the next few weeks.

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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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