A nestling Lappet-faced vulture that has been fitted with a GPS-GSM tracking device. Ali Al Rasbi is the one without the feathers, and is a member of ESO's vulture team. ©ESO, IAR.
In May 2022 the ESO vulture team, Environment Authority employees and volunteers from the public fit GPS-GSM tracking devices to nestling Lappet-faced vultures from the Hajar Mountains. The nestlings were found by our team and cooperators earlier this year, and we have been monitoring their progress as they grow. When they were old enough, but before they had flown (about 100 days old), we fit some of them with tracking devices, and placed them back in their nest. Some days/weeks later the nestlings take their first flight ("fledge"), and we are able to follow their movements with the help of the trackers.
The tracking devices weigh about 50 grams, small enough to cause no harmful effects to the vultures (which weigh 6.5 - 8 kg!). The devices are attached using a custom-made, Teflon, pelvic harness that does not interfere with flight. Getting the fit right is important - too tight and it will injure the bird, too loose and it will hang from the bird and may affect flight. In future blog posts we'll explain more about the devices and tracking, and you'll learn as we go along.
The solar powered GPS-GSM tracking device on Lappet-faced vulture 17139. The bird's head has been covered to keep it calm. © ESO, IAR.
Below is a map of movements of a young Lappet-faced vulture fitted with a tag on 5 May 2022, first as it sat on then nest, and then as it made more and wider excursions from the nest during its first flights. Currently it has the romantic name of "171379", which is the identification number of its tracking device. As you can see, at the moment most of the locations are clustered in the north. That is where the nest is. You can also see that it made a rather long excursion to the south (the distance between the nest and the location farthest south). As time passes, this bird will expand its ranging, and (assuming it survives), will cover vast areas in search of its food: rather large dead animals.
Movements of a juvenile Lappet-faced vulture during 5 - 31 May 2022, when the bird fledged and started to move more widely in the area around the nest. The arrow indicates its last location. The distance north to south is about 15 km. © ESO, IAR.
If this is your first visit to the blog, then you might want to look at our first post (here) for some background. In the coming days, weeks and years we'll be posting about other vultures being tracked, and about the biology, ecology and conservation of Lappet-faced vultures in Oman. So, come back every so often or follow us with the button in upper right corner, and tell your friends and family about the blog. Also, comment or ask questions in the comments box below.