A Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, which has spent the summer in England's Peak District has returned to France. The Bird, which has a 2.5 m wingspan, was originally thought to have escaped from captivity, but DNA on two feathers recovered by a Yorkshire birdwatcher showed it to be a female Vulture which had hatched in the French Alps the previous year, part of a breeding program seeking to help re-establish the re-establish a permanent population there. The Vulture has spent four months in England, being sited in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, but was seen flying out to sea over the coast of East Sussex on Thursday 15 July 2020. This is fairly typical behaviour for young Bearded Vultures, who often range over wide areas before returning to the area where they were raised, and is unlikely to result in a permanent population becoming established in the UK, although this is the second such Bird to have visited the UK in a relatively short period of time, with a previous visit having occurred in 2016, the first time the species had been recorded in Britain.
Bearded Vultures are currently classified as Near Threatened under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, having suffered sharp population declines in many areas of Asia and Africa since the start of the twenty-first century. In Europe the species was almost wiped out by the beginning of the twentieth century, due to a perception that it was a major predator of spring lambs, but in recent years has expanded its range due to successful conservation and reintroduction programs. The species is also reported to be doing well in the Himalayas and the highlands of Ethiopia, and is the subject of an active conservation plan in South Africa, but across the rest of its range, which includes all of Africa, South Asia and the Mediterranean Basin, populations of Bearded Vultures have been severely impacted by habitat loss due to expanding Human infrastructure, reduced food availability due to the disappearance of other species, deliberate poisoning intended to protect livestock from large carnivores, and, in places, active trophy hunting.
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