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Blog posts after 1 Feb 2018 about Steppe eagles tracked from Oman can be found at the Steppe eagle blog

Monday, March 9, 2020

Egyptian vultures in Oman are breeding

by B. U.Meyburg & M. McGrady

We are continuing to track Egyptian vultures in Oman. Most, if not all, the birds we are tracking are territory holders, and some of those may have already laid eggs. We can tell this by the reduction in solar power being created by the panels that power the transmitters.  This is because tagged birds are spending more time on the nest (in the shade) than when they are not breeding.  

An important finding of our work has been that Oman appears to be a stronghold for this globally endangered species.  Follow this link https://bioone.org/journals/Ardea/volume-108/issue-1/arde.v108i1.a4/A-Globally-Important-Stronghold-in-Oman-for-a-Resident-Population/10.5253/arde.v108i1.a4.full to download our Open Access article, and pass it on to others that might be interested.

Because breeding Egyptian vultures are now spending more time on their territories the numbers being seen at Al Multaqaa landfill will be lower than during the winter.  Additionally, migrating eagles (Steppe eagles, Imperial eagles, Greater spotted eagles) will also depart soon, if they have not already done so.

During February we also conducted field work in Djibouti on Egyptian vultures.  Djibouti may also be a stronghold.  You can follow that effort here: https://egyptianvulturedjibouti.blogspot.com/

So as not to deprive you of some eye-candy, below is a map of the movements of one of our territorial Egyptian vultures during one day in early March.  One can see how it spent most of its time near its presumed breeding territory, but made a trip north the Al Multaqaa... presumably to feed.

Movements of a territorial Egyptian vulture durin 2-3 March.  The shaded area is Wadi Sireen Nature Reserve

Monday, January 6, 2020

Egyptian vulture work in Oman - a history

by M. McGrady and B.U. Meyburg

An adult Egyptian vulture ready to be fitted with a satellite tag in 2018.

Egyptian vulture is globally endangered, and faces a wide range of threats including, poisoning, electrocution, persecution and hunting for belief-based medicine.  Most vulture species in Eurasia and Africa are of conservation concern, being either endangered or critically endangered.

Since 2012 Egyptian vulture research has been conducted in Oman.

2012 - surveys of breeding Egyptian vultures on Masirah supported by the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) find it to be the second most dense population in the world,  The result of that survey are published.

2013 - Waheed Al Fazari conducts vulture surveys for 1.5 yrs at the Muscat municipal landfill. Results are published.

2014 - the ESO supports wider surveys at dumpsites on the mainland.

2015 - Waheed Al Fazari and International Avian Research capture and tag with a satellite transmitter the first Egyptian two vultures to be tracked in Oman

2016 - two more vultures fitted with satellite transmitters by International Avian Research

2018 - 12 adult Egyptian vultures are trapped at the Muscat municipal landfill and fitted with transmitters.  This work funded by International Avian Research and the Bernd Meyburg Fund for Raptor Conservation and Research.  Be'ah, the waste management company in Oman, joins the conversation about how best to manage waste in Oman to benefit both scavenging birds (like vultures) and humans.

2019 - Surveys for breeding Egyptian vultures in the eastern Hajar Mountains by International Avian Research and the Bernd Meyburg Fund for Raptor Conservation and Research find many more breeding vultures than estimated.  Oman seen as a global stronghold.  Results of on-going surveys by ESO on Masirah, results of tracking and identification of Oman as a stronghold published in three different papers.  Artwork by Violet Astor raises funds for more work by ESO on Egyptian vultures.

So, at the end of 2019 we have 8 satellite tags providing data on movements of territorial adult Egyptian vultures (7 in Oman, one in southern Iran).  These birds have been tracked for two years now, and we plan a first effort at analysing those data in 2020.  Also, with funds from the Astor artwork, we will initiate field work and public conservation education efforts with Egyptian vultures as a focus.

Apart from the organizations mentioned, the work was undertaken with permission from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA). Be'ah and its contractors helped by providing safe access to their landfill sites.  Be sure to visit our other site about tracking scavenging birds in Oman: http://steppeeaglesoman.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 13, 2019

171326 a change in home range.

by B.-U. Meyburg & M. McGrady

Most of the Egyptian vultures we captured and fitted with satellite transmitters in January 2018 were apparently settled territory holders.  From the very beginning tracking has showed them to move between their territories and the dumpsites and landfills that they regularly visit for food.  However, a few were not settled, and presumably were "floaters", birds that had no fixed territories (and no mates).  171326 appeared to be such a bird.

Below are maps of the last 20,000 locations and last 5,000 locations of  Egyptian vulture 171326.  As can be seen, this bird was spending almost all of its time north of the eastern Hajar Mountains, but then shifted SW, and has more recently settled into an area south of Sayq and has made forays out toward and beyond Birkat al Mous and even visiting Jebel Shams.

The last 20,000 locations of  an adult Egyptian vulture (171326), up to 13 October 2019. Click on map to open in a new window for easier viewing.
The last 5,000 locations of  an adult Egyptian vulture (171326), up to 13 October 2019. Click on map to open in a new window for easier viewing.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Vulture Awareness

by M. McGrady and B. -U. Meyburg

International Vulture Awareness Day is on Saturday 7 September.  As a warm up to that, below is a animation of the movements of some of the Egyptian vultures we are tracking in Oman.  In case you have not been following the blog, we tagged 13 Egyptian vultures in 2018, thinking that the large increase of vultures at dump sites in Oman was the result of migrants arriving from farther north.  To our surprise all the tagged vultures except one stayed in Oman (one hopped over to southern Iran), and most of them seemed to be territory holding birds.  This led us to believe that the resident population of Egyptian vultures in Oman was in fact much larger than suspected  (click here).  In spring 2019 a field team confirmed this by finding over 60 vulture breeding territories in a restricted area south of Muscat, indicating that Oman truely is a stronghold for globally Endangered Egyptian vultures.

Below is a short animation of a few weeks of movements by some of our tagged birds.  What it shows is that birds are dwelling on their territories most of the time, making almost daily trips to the landfill (pink triangle near the middle), and every once in a while they wander more widely.  The animation was assembled by John Burnside at the University of East Anglia (Thanks, John).  John is working on McQueen's (houbara) bustard.  You can learn more about his work here https://www.sustainablehoubaramanagement.org/ and on Twitter  @SustainHoubara  https://twitter.com/SustainHoubara?s=17

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Ranging by 171325 during August 2019

by M. McGrady and B.-U. Meyburg

It's been about 1.5 months since we last posted anything about the vultures we are tracking.  During that time most of the vultures have been spending time on their territories, making regular visits to the Al Multaquaa dump, and only occassionally wandering more widely.  Although we do not have information on productivity from the vultures, judging from the tracking data, it seems that some birds actually raised some offspring.  It certainly would be nice in future years to confirm this, and start to understand how productive the breeding population of Egyptian vultures in Oman really is. 

The map below is typical of what the territorial birds have been doing.  The map is of the last 500 locations for vulture number 171325.  It has a territory inland from Yiti and As Sifah.  It makes regular trips to the landfill at Al Multaquaa, but also made a long trip to the rubbish dump outside of Ibra.  This behaviour is actually in line with what we found for non-breeding immature  (McGrady et al. 2017) birds in that this vulture makes regular visits to a source of abundant food, but also seems to keep tabs on more distant food sources.  This type of behaviour provides a hedge against the loss of the nearby source.  Of course the Egyptian vulture has no way of knowing that the Al Multaquaa landfill is likely to be a reliable source of abundant food for a long time.

McGrady M.J., Karelus, D.L., Rayaleh, H.A., Sarrouf Willson, M., Meyburg, B.-U., Oli, M.K., Bildstein, K. 2019.  Home range and movement of Egyptian Vultures in relation to rubbish dumps in Oman and the Horn of Africa.  Bird Study 65: 544556.

GOOD NEWS FROM PORTUGAL:  A national action plan for necrophagus birds has been published https://www.4vultures.org/2019/08/22/portuguese-action-plan-for-the-conservation-of-necrophagous-birds-finally-published-in-di%C3%A1rio-da-rep%C3%BAblica/?fbclid=IwAR1TiPg3U2AR5Y-v434Cmz3X8ifbavXqICCEcHiZzDWmLyjsoYmnD5JyW38

Last 500 locations from an adult Egyptian vulture (171325) up to 28 August 2019.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sunday morning movements

by B.-U Meyburg and M. McGrady

Below is a map which shows the last 1000 locations of Egyptian vulture 16095.  We are collecting data at a high rate (maximum 1 location/sec depending on solar power constraints).  The map shows that this bird spent earlier parts of the morning at the Al Multaqa landfill. It then started soaring over the landfill and gained altitude, then flew in a straight line about 2 km to the south, circled once more to gain a bit more altitude, then perched.

Analyses of such data can allow us to understand the flight behaviour of vultures in relation to weather information, topography and location of food resources.  Such understanding can help conserve vultures by enabling us, for example, to better understand the risk of collision at wind farm sites, and adjust turbine placement accordingly.

Movements of an adult Egyptian vulture during the morning of 7 July 2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Scavenging birds are important waste managers in Arabia

 Click on the link to see a recent opinion paper by M. McGrady, T. Al Amri, and A. Spalton


Human waste managers at Al Multaqa Engineered Landfill outside Muscat with their vulture colleague.