A black vulture (Aegypius monachus) has been spotted in the Eastern Balkan Mountains for the first time for more than 30 years. A photo-trap set up at the vulture supplementary feeding site in the area of the Sinite Kamani Nature Park captured a young black vulture in April, together with a group of foraging griffons. The pictured bird was released as part of the LIFE project, 'Vultures Return in Bulgaria'.
The vulture probably originated from Serbia and was recorded along with several wild, non-tagged young and sub-adult griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus).
Black vulture was once widely distributed across the country, mostly in the plain areas but also in hilly areas and the broad-leaved forest belt – namely, the Dobrudzha, Ludogorie, Shumen and Provadija plateaus, the Danube plain, the slopes of Sakar, Vitosha, the mountains surrounding Sofia, the Rhodopes and south-eastern Bulgaria.
However, the use of poison, traps and poachers led to the complete extinction of the black vulcan as a nesting species. The last confirmed nest of the species was found by the Green Balkans team in the area of the Studen Kladenets Reservoir in 1997 and since then no nesting has been confirmed.
But the country is often visited by black vultures, which still nest in the Dadia Reserve in northern Greece and cross the border in search of food. They often use the supplementary feeding sites that have been maintained by Green Balkans and the BSPB for the past 25 years.
The siting of the black vulture at the supplementary feeding site represents a huge success for the project. Griffon vulture is an indicator species, which it is hoped confirms the improved conditions of the Balkan Mountains.