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Black Vultures by the dozen at Cáceres Rubbish Tip

Teresa Farino
24/03/2009 18:39:34

An hour at Cáceres rubbish tip on the afternoon of 14 March revealed that all is not well for carrion-eaters in the Extremaduran countryside.

Posted in: Birds | Extremadura | Mainland Spain, Western Spain

Griffon Vultures - Gyps fulvus and Black Vultures@Aegypius monachus © Teresa FarinoGriffon Vultures Gyps fulvus and Black Vultures Aegypius monachus at Cáceres rubbish tip© Teresa Farino

Whilst heading down to Portugal last week to lead a tour for Island Holidays, I stopped briefly at the Cáceres rubbish tip to see what was about, having not been there for about 8 years. I followed the route around the north side of the tip, where the fields were heaving with Cattle Egrets and White Storks, while the skies above were alive with the swooping silhouettes of Black Kites (around 50 birds), Red Kites (some 10 individuals) and Jackdaws, all typical scavengers.

Black Vulture - Aegypius monachus © Teresa FarinoBlack Vulture Aegypius monachus© Teresa FarinoWhat was depressing, however, was the large number of Griffon Vultures (c. 50 birds) to be seen here; obviously carrion – livestock carcasses, etc. – in the wider countryside is getting hard to come by. Nevertheless, the real surprise was the dozen or so Black Vultures at the site, perched variously on the bund at the edge of the tip and in the surrounding fields. I rang John Muddeman in some excitement, and he was just as stunned as me. He went on to do a little research among the Extremaduran birding fraternity, and it turns out that up to 800 Griffon Vultures and 30 Black Vultures at a time have been recorded here on occasion recently.

The spectacle of a majestic Black Vulture soaring over the plains of Extremadura is one of my most memorable wildlife experiences, and to see these birds reduced to scavenging for urban refuse is a sad indictment of European agricultural policy in the twenty-first century.

Related Information:
More information about the birds of Extremadura

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