Black vulture nest. | Archive

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The Mediterranean Wildlife Foundation is asking hikers to avoid exclusion zones in the Tramuntana Mountains so as not to disturb black vulture nests. Eggs are in the process of hatching, the black vulture being a protected species in danger of extinction.

The coordinator of the foundation's black vulture project, Josep Tapia, says that success in recovering the black vulture population in Mallorca has required preventing hikers from walking through areas where vultures nest. If the vultures are disturbed, they may abandon the nests.

Tapia explains that the vultures mainly nest on sea cliffs in the Tramuntana. There was a time, however, when they were common inside mountain ranges. Centuries of "human persecution" almost led to their extinction. There were only a few pairs left on the most remote cliffs. Despite the efforts to recover the population, nesting continues to be in the most remote and quietest areas.

For vultures, Tapia stresses, "human beings are predators and their presence close to nesting territories is incompatible with successful reproduction". The black vulture lays only one egg a year. A single disturbance can cause the abandonment of the nest with the egg or the chick and, consequently, the failure of reproduction.

"If the adult leaves the nest due to the close presence of people, helicopters or planes, the egg or the small chick can die in a short time, as there is the loss of the protection of the parents against the cold or heat. There is also exposure to predators such as crows or seagulls."

In order that this endangered species "evolves favourably on the island", the Balearic government created exclusion zones. Apart from the black vultures, other protected species include the Egyptian vulture, the osprey, the booted eagle, Bonelli's eagle, Eleonora's falcons and common falcons. These all nest in Tramuntana exclusion zones.