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Volume 19, Issue 3 p. 151-151
Frontiers EcoPics
Free Access

Longevity record verified in an Egyptian vulture

José A Donázar

José A Donázar

Doñana Biological Station, CSIC, Seville, Spain

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Antoni Margalida

Antoni Margalida

Institute for Game and Wildlife Research, CSIC-ULM-JCCM, Ciudad Real, Spain

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First published: 01 April 2021

Long-term monitoring is fundamental to understand the ecology and conservation of long-lived endangered species. These photos document a record of longevity for a male Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the only long-distance migratory vulture species in Europe. When captured and tagged in July 1993 (left panel) in Bardenas Reales (northern Spain), it was probably two years old, as indicated by its plumage patterns. In June 2020, the same individual was recaptured as a territorial adult in the Catalan Pyrenees, 200 kilometers away (right panel). To the best of our knowledge, the age of this bird, 29 years, sets the known record for a vulture in the wild. Males are suspected to live longer than females. In the population of vultures to which this individual belongs, annual survival rates for adults are sex-biased (0.91 males; 0.82 females); indeed, of nine birds in this population that are known to exceed two decades of age, six were males, with two 28-year-old males still alive in 2020.

Seabirds of various taxa can apparently live for many years, with records of albatrosses that reach more than six decades of age while still actively breeding. In large avian scavengers, such information is spotty because there have been very few long-term studies and, above all, because most of the populations are subject to strong non-natural mortality like poisoning and collision with wind turbines. For example, in the case of Egyptian vultures, generation times are just over a decade. Having accurate information about the potential longevity of individuals in the wild is essential to refine estimates of population viability in species such as vultures, which are imperiled globally.