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

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Its the breeding season for Egyptian vultures in Oman

by M. McGrady and B. -U. Meyburg

In January 2018, when we caught the vultures we are currently tracking, we assumed that most of them were from migratory populations and that they would leave Oman during the breeding season.  However, to our surprise NONE of the birds we tagged were migratory, and that suggested instead that the breeding population in Oman is much larger than had been estimated (100 pairs, Jennings 2010), especially given the large increase we had recorded on Masirah (Angelov et al 2013)

In February-March of this year, a multi-national team (Ivaylo Angelov-Bulgaria; Clémentine Bougain-France; Michael Schulze-Germany) spent three weeks in Oman trying to determine whether the vultures we were following were indeed breeding, and to find other breeding pairs.  To do this they used tracking data to identify the territories of tagged birds, which they visited to confirm occupancy.  Then, using that as a framework, searched for signs (faeces at perch and nest sites, and attendant birds) of territorial pairs in the vicinity.  This was not always easy work because much of the area is in difficult terrain with few roads, and the nests are sometimes not in places where they can be easily observed.

Searching for signs of territorial Egyptian vultures. Photo by the EV Team.
Nonetheless, the team were able to confirm apparent breeding by most of the tracked birds, with some birds apparently starting to incubate eggs by the first week in March.  They were also able to find over 80 apparent breeding territories of Egyptian vulture within about 40 km of the main Muscat municipal landfill at Al Multaquaa, and they estimated there might be around 200 pairs in total in that area.

An Egyptian vulture inspecting a possible nest site, March 2019. Photo by the EV team
So, although it has been almost two months since our last positing, it is not the case that nothing has been happening... For their part Egyptian vultures in Oman have started breeding.  Once they lay eggs, they will need to incubate them for about 42 days, then the nestlings will remain in the nest for about 70-90 days (so an egg laid on 10 March would produce a fledgling in July).  We will continue to track vultures fitted with tags (below is an example of the movements of a vulture during March, showing that it has a territory located near Quriyat, but that it makes regular visits to the rubbish dump at Ibra).  We are also analysing more closely the results of the Feb-Mar breeding survey, and aim to publish that in the coming months.

Movements of a territorial Egyptian vulture during March 2019.
The team saw many more interesting things during their surveys; in the coming days we will try to post more information, so come back to the blog or follow us via email.