The Black Vulture is the largest raptor found in both Europe and Mallorca and cannot be mistaken due to its sheer size it has a wingspan of over two and a half metres and weighs from 6-8 kg. Its body is dark brown but the head is covered in fine black down. It has a blue grey beak and legs. It is the most important bird to Mallorca as this is the only Island in the world that has a breeding population and this colony is only found in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
This magnificent bird was nearly extinct in Mallorca in the early 1980’s and in 1983 a conservation project was started by the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, in conjunction with the regional government of the Balearic Islands, to halt its decline. The first breeding success was in in 1986 when a bird was bred at son Reus and the juvenile bird was released into the Tramuntana to help supplement the declining island population. The most successful year to date was when there were 20 breeding pairs and 11 fledged young. 2014 was a record year with 25 breeding pairs and 16 fledged young. The number of birds now exceeds 130, however they remain under threat and the poison bait often put down for feral cats can prove fatal for vultures. In 2016 there was a record number of chicks reared with 25 so the success story goes on and the Black vulture foundation Group continue their amazing work.This year in 2017 36 pairs took up breeding territories but 32 pairs laid eggs from which 27 hatched the highest since the project began. In the last ten years 132 young have fledged and this a credit both to the BVCF and the farmers working together to ensure a good food supply.
The Black Vulture conservation foundation aims to recover the species in the Mediterranean region, reinforce colonies and reintroduce vultures wherever it is possible. Currently the BVCF maintains s breeding program in Europe. The HQ is in Mallorca near Campanet where they breed them in captivity and free guided tours are available.You can take part in the project in many ways as they need volunteers. It is recommended if you want to see them in the wild you visit the cliffs between September and January when they are not breeding.
The Black Vultures habitat the north of the Tramuntana mountain range where there are plenty of mountain valleys where sheep and goats graze and very rarely will they venture out over the plains in places such as the Boquer Valley but the best sites are South of Pollença with Mortitx, the Monastery at Lluc which is also the visitors centre for the Tramuntana mountains, the Cuber Reservoir and the Ternelles estate located near Pollença where they actually nest within the ruined walls of the Castell Del Rei in the same nest year after year.
Their feeding habits mean the vultures scavenge for food looking in wide ranging flight over territories often the same every day normally alone or in pairs but never that far away from the main colony. When they do spot food normally carrion, they often wait hours sometimes even days as they are distrustful birds and normally it attracts crows first.
Their breeding habits are that they form very loose colonies building huge nests in both trees and rock faces often in trees growing on the cliff faces in Mallorca which they look over all year round. The breeding cycle starts in mid-winter when dry grass is taken to the nest and this is followed by a lengthy courtship which includes soaring acrobatically over their territories. They lay only one egg which is incubated for two months and both parents incubate and this continues during the fledgling stage which lasts twenty six weeks and an adult is always at the nest.
The last island colonies that became extinct were in Cyprus and Sardinia and these vanished sometime in the nineteen seventies and thanks to all the conservation work the Mallorca colony in the Tramuntana is now safe.
The Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is a large raptorial bird that is distributed through much of Eurasia. It is also known as the cinereous vulture, monk vulture, or Eurasian black vulture. It is a member of the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, buzzards and harriers. It is one of the two largest Old World vultures. The black vulture is distinctly dark, with the whole body being brown excepting the pale head in adults, which is covered in fine blackish down. The skin of the head and neck is bluish-grey and a paler whitish colour above the eye. The adult has brown eyes, a purplish cere, a blue-grey bill and pale blue-grey legs. The primary quills are often actually black. From a distance, flying birds can easily appear all black. The immature plumage is sepia-brown above, with a much paler underside than in adults. Immature cinereous vultures have grey down on the head, a pale mauve cere and grey legs.