Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 507–515 | Cite as

Philopatry in a reintroduced population of Bearded Vultures Gypaetus barbatus in the Alps

  • David Jenny
  • Marc Kéry
  • Paolo Trotti
  • Enrico Bassi
Original Article


Following its eradication in the Alps in the early 1900s, the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus has been reintroduced in four Alpine regions since 1986. The first successful breeding since this reintroduction into the wild occurred in 1997 in the western Alps, and in 1998 in the Central Alps, thereby establishing two subpopulations. Here, we focus on the growth and the settlement patterns of one of the major subpopulations of reintroduced Bearded Vulture, that of the Central Alps. By 2015 there were 15 breeding pairs in the Central Alps, and the density within the core area was strikingly higher (18.8 pairs/1000 km2) than that outside it (overall density 3.4 pairs/1000 km2). New pairs showed high natal philopatry when settling, with maximum distances of 49.2 km from the nearest release sites. Among identified birds, born or released within the Central Alps, 85% (n = 26) paired and settled within this subpopulation and only four birds emigrated to the west. Three birds immigrated from the east or the west. Both the number of pairs and of offspring increased exponentially between 1998 and 2015. The growth of the Central Alpine subpopulation was characterized by concentric and continuous growth around the release sites. Moreover, there was an increase in the density of pairs within the core area. Possible explanations for the high natal philopatry observed include adaptive genetic components, abundant food resources and conspecific attraction. As a consequence of the substantial population increase, releases in the Central Alpine subpopulation were stopped after 2008. The population has grown almost exclusively on the basis of wild-born birds since then, and has become a major subpopulation of the Bearded Vulture in the Alps.


Population growth Population density Extirpation Endangered species 


Philopatrie in einer wiederangesiedelten Population des Bartgeiers Gypaetus barbatus in den Alpen

Nach seiner alpenweiten Ausrottung zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts wurde der Bartgeier Gypaetus barbatus ab 1986 in vier Alpenregionen wieder angesiedelt. Erste erfolgreiche Wildbruten erfolgten 1997 in den Westalpen und 1998 in den Zentralalpen, wo sich in der Folge wachsende Subpopulationen etablierten. Diese Studie fokussiert auf das Wachstums- und Besiedlungsmuster des bedeutenden Populationskeims in den Zentralalpen. Bis 2015 etablierten sich 15 Brutpaare in den Zentralalpen. In der Kernzone war die Siedlungsdichte deutlich höher (18.8 Paare/1000 km2) als innerhalb des ganzen Nukleus (3.4 Paare/1000 km2). Neu etablierte Paare ließen sich ausgesprochen philopatrisch, in der Nähe ihres Freilassungsorts nieder (Maximaldistanz zum nächsten Freilassungsort: 49.2 km). Unter den individuell identifizierten Bartgeiern, die in den Zentralalpen freigelassen oder geboren wurden, ließen sich 85% (n=26) innerhalb dieser Subpopulation als verpaarte Adultvögel nieder und nur vier emmigrierten nach Westen. Drei adulte Bartgeier wanderten aus Osten oder Westen ein. Sowohl die Zahl der Brutpaare als auch die Anzahl wildgeborener Jungvögel stieg zwischen 1998 und 2015 exponentiell an. Der Populationskeim in den Zentralalpen wuchs kontinuierlich und konzentrisch um die Freilassungsorte. Zusätzlich verdichtete sich die Population in der Kernzone. Mögliche Erklärungen für die ausgeprägte Geburtsort-Philopatrie bei den Brutpaaren umfassen genetische Komponenten, ein sehr gutes Nahrungsangebot und innerartliche, soziale Attraktion. Als Folge des Populationswachstums in den Zentralalpen wurden hier nach 2008 weitere Freilassungen eingestellt. Seither wuchs die Population fast ausschließlich auf der Basis Hwildgeborener Vögel und wurde zu einem der wichtigsten Populationskeime im Alpenbogen.



The Foundation Pro Bartgeier and Stelvio National Park principally supported the program. In addition, the Fish and Game Department of the Grisons, the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the Swiss National Park conducted and/or supported the research program. We thank a large number of gamekeepers and park wardens of the Grisons for hundreds of observations, photos and support in the field, namely A. à Porta, F. Bott, L. Costa, A. Cuonz, G. Denoth, D. De Tann, C. Eichholzer, C. Florineth, D. Godli, D. Godly, J. Gross, C. Irniger, S. Jäger, E. Jenal, G. C. König, E. Kuen, G. Lardgiadèr, J. Mayer, C. Micheli, U. Nef, M. Negri, A. Plozza, N. Pua, R. Roganti, R. Salis, P. Schaniel, M. Schmutz, R. Soldano, R. Strimer, R. Strimer, J. Tomaschett, and N. A. Willy. The following people contributed a significant number of observations from the Engadine: J. Cambensy, G. Brosi, L. Pitsch and gamekeeper T.Wehrli and his sons. We thank the wardens of Carabinieri Forestali (former Corpo Forestale dello Stato)—CTA of Bormio, technicians and observers—F. Angeli, H. Angerer, D. Azzalin, M. Azzolini, M. Benazzo, D. Bettini, F. Diana, R. Facoetti, M. Ferloni, R. Ghilotti, R. Mazagg, P. Pedrini, A. Ricci, A. Pirovano, A. Roverselli, F. Sartirana, R. Schöpf and G. Volcan; Sondrio Province wardens—N. Bragalanti, I. Callovi and F. Sotti. Thanks to the 470 Italian volunteers who over 12 years have alternated during 24 contemporary censuses in Stelvio National Park. K. Bliem, A. Buffa, G. De Monte Faginto, P. Bertagnolli and C .Pentori contributed data from Valle Venosta. C. Buchli with the help of the late A. Buchli directed the Foundation Pro Bartgeier until 2007 and provided much information and important contacts, as did J. P. Müller and D. Hegglin since the beginning of the project and F. Lörcher since 2010. B. Hefti-Gautschi analysed the DNA of feathers and provided the data on the Bearded Vulture individuals until 2012 and F. Lörcher since 2013. We thank the staff of International Bearded Vulture Monitoring for support in many ways: H. Frey, M. Knollseisen, A. Schwarzenberger and R. Zink. F. Biollaz, L. Giraudo, F. Lainer and E. Marlé provided data from the western and eastern Alps. We also thank the staffs of the National Parks in the French and Austrian Alps. Thanks to the Administration of Stelvio National Park for supporting the research, the monitoring and the releases in the framework of the international reintroduction project: H. Gunsch, A. Meinardi, A. Osio, L. Pedrotti, W. Platter, L. Spagnolli, and F. Tomasi. H. Haller, R. Haller, F. Filli, H. Lozza, T. Rempfler, and K. Robin from the Swiss National Park supported the monitoring in many ways. S. Wechsler created the maps. Editorial support by D. Hegglin (Stiftung Pro Bartgeier), C. Steiner, L. Jenni, G. Pasinelli and R. Vanscheidt is greatly acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stiftung Pro BartgeierZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Ornithological InstituteSempachSwitzerland
  3. 3.ERSAF Lombardia Direzione Parco Nazionale dello StelvioBormioItaly

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