Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) breeds throughout the Sahel region from southwestern Mauritania and Guinea eastwards to Ethiopia and Tanzania. It is considered non-migratory, although foraging involves moving considerable distances (up to 150-200 km).
Since mid-1990s, increasing numbers of Rüppell’s Vultures have been recorded in the western Mediterranean region especially in Andalusia, southern Spain (Gutiérrez 2003), but also in northern Morocco. In spring 2007, nine birds were observed crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and arriving in the European continent from Morocco (Ramírez et al. 2011). In autumn 2010, at least 12 Rüppell’s Vultures were seen in Spain (individually identified by photographs, see Gutiérrez et al. 2010).
Recently, I have noticed some excellent photographs of three Rüppell’s Vultures taken by Michel Aymerich some 5 km to the west of Aousserd, Oued Dahab region on 1 August 2011. I thought, “What if these Rüppell’sVultures breed there or somewhere near?” After all, I thought that these birds can find suitable breeding habitat in the region and enough carrion to feed themselves and their young. Also, Aousserd is not very far from the nearest breeding colonies in southwestern Mauritania.
Of course, I have also considered what have been said above about the great dispersal ability of the species and its regular movements northwards with the Griffon Vultures. Consequently, these birds most likely involved ‘migrants’ or ‘wanderers’ searching for carrions without a definite destination (in the moment they were photographed), or indeed were in their way to northern Morocco and ultimately to the Iberian Peninsula. What do you think about this ‘daydream’?
Gutiérrez, R. 2003. Occurrence of Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture in Europe. Dutch Birding 25: 289-303.
Gutiérrez, R., Elorriaga, J. & Daly, S. 2010. How many Rüppell’s vultures do we have in Spain? An attempt to photo-identify the birds in autumn 2010. Retrieved from http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi036.htm
Ramírez, J., Muñoz, A.R., Onrubia, A., de la Cruz, A., Cuenca, D., González, J.M. & Arroyo G.M. 2011. Spring movements of Rüppell’s Vulture Gyps rueppellii across the Strait of Gibraltar. Ostrich 82: 71-73.