Patronat de Turisme de la Diputació de TarragonaDiputació de Tarragona
Terres de l'Ebre 
© Policarpo Hernandez
© Policarpo Hernandez


A new pair of Egyptian vultures in Els Ports Natural Park

This spring a new pair of Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) was detected in Els Ports Natural Park. This endangered vulture is one of the rarest birds of prey in the Park. It disappeared from the peninsula in the 1970’s as a consequence of the use of poisons, and returned to the Catalan area of Els Ports as a nesting bird in 2001. In 2014 there was just one nesting pair within the Park limits.

The Egytptian vulture is the smallest vulture in this area. It is easy to distinguish as it has black flight feathers contrasting with the rest of its body which is covered in white feathers, including its wedge-shaped tail. Close up, part of its body is without feathers and its intense yellow coloured skin is exposed. The young bird is a dark brown colour and starts going white as it grows into an adult at the age of about four when it reaches sexual maturity.

This is a monogamous species and occupies the same territory year after year. It makes its nest in the cavities of sharp rocks. Around the month of April it lays one or two eggs which hatch after 42 days. The chicks begin their first flights when they are around 12 weeks old towards the end of July or the beginning of August.

The Egyptian vulture feeds on the carrion of small animals or large hoofed animals. They also eat excrement, eggs of other birds and even small vertebrates which they sometimes hunt. It is a common visitor to vulture feeding station where they predictably find plenty of food. It is a summer species. The first examples reach their breeding area on the Iberian Peninsula at the end of February and leave in September heading for wintering African areas.

On a worldwide scale, it can be found in the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, areas of south and east Africa and the south of the Sahara. In Catalonia, it is found in mid mountain areas, but a greater number can be found in the Pyrenean foothills of Lleida, more specifically in the regions of El Pallars Jussà, L’Alt Urgell and La Noguera (García, 2004). They can also be found in the region of Osona, els Ports and more recently in El Bages. The last worldwide census carried out in Catalonia in 2008 estimated a population of between 66-70 pairs, of which only one was censused in Els Ports Natural Park (García, 2009). At present, the population of this species in Catalonia is considered to be stable and growing.

To find out more about the Egyptian vulture in Els Ports Natural Park and Catalonia: