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last update: November 1, 2006

Tracking Bearded Vultures and
Griffon Vultures with GPS

El proyecto LIFE: programa para la reintroducción del quebrantahuesos en Andalucía.


Alfonso Goldino Fundación Gypaetus





The Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) Reintroduction Project in Andalusia (southern Spain) aims to re-establish a wild population of this endangered species in this region, where it occurred until 1986. For this aim, several actions have been developed, one of which was to study both under natural conditions and in captivity the most innocuous method to fix transmitters to the birds released and the best monitoring system to follow them in the wild. This work started in 2003, was performed by the Gypaetus Foundation with funding from the Environmental Government of Andalusia (Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucía) and included the study of alternative marking techniques (e.g. bleached feathers) that have proved unsuccessful in our study area.


Fitting the GPS GSM backpack to the Griifon Vulture. We marked an adult bird to try to get information about home range of adult’s population. This year one adult and two juveniles more will be fiitted to get more information.



















For this reason a new project (recently developed in January 2006) included the use of telemetry and thus we tested GPS-GSM transmitters in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y las Villas (Jaén province, Andalusia), the first protected area where the first bearded vultures were released last spring 2006. For this, we fitted a GPS-GSM transmitter to a griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) (a species of which about 300 pairs breed in the Natural Park), to get information about:


   the suitability of this kind of transmitters in our study area and evaluate its usefulness
             with bearded vultures, especially in relation to phone coverage, and

   the home range and habitat use of griffon vultures in the Natural Park, as a way
               to predict potential feeding areas for the released bearded vultures.



The results obtained in this preliminary study show that GPS-GSM technique is suitable for monitoring bearded vultures in our study area. The transmitters worked correctly and few problems with phone coverage were detected (see picture below).

We have also got very valuable information on the use of home range by the griffon vultures. Even though a single bird has been studied, what limits the generalization of our results, we have assessed changes in home range’s use of the griffon vulture and the close relation with annual livestock’s movements in (spring to the beginning of autumn) and out (winter) the Park. The griffon vulture has tracked such movements up to 80-100 km far from its nest at the beginning of its breeding season and the first week of the nestling’s life. When the nestling was 90 days old, the adult travelled 170 km far from the nest in search of food.

We hope to get more information on the movements of the griffon vultures out of its breeding season from the end of September onwards, when livestock moves from the Natural Park to the wintering areas out of the limits of the Park.




For this reason and to increase our knowledge on griffon vultures’ home range and the relationship between this species and juveniles bearded vultures released the last summer, we are planning to mark 3 griffon vultures with GPS-GSM transmitters next November 2006.



Author's address:



Alfonso Goldino: Fundación Gypaetus



Link: Foundation Gypaetus

La Fundación Gypaetus es una organización sin ánimo de lucro que trabaja por la conservación y recuperación de especies amenazadas en Andalucía.