lunes, 4 de febrero de 2008

Is the Hooded Vulture a natural vagrant to Europe? [¿Es el Alimoche Sombrío, ¿un divagante natural a Europa?]

The Hooded Vulture from Tarifa. 2.9.2007.2nd for Spain (Lucía Espigares)

On 2nd September 2007 a Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) was photographed near the Algarrobo bird observatory at Tarifa, Cádiz (Lucía Espigares). News were not spread since the bird went undetected within other raptors feeding on a carrion in that area. David Cuenca Espinosa when having the opportunity of seeing the photos noticed the presence of a Hooded Vulture and notified us the sighting. A photo is reproduced above (Lucía Espigares).

The Hooded Vulture is an African species present in Savannah and open habitats from S Mauritania across Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan to Ethiopia and Somalia to Namibia, Botswana and S Africa (see a map below from

The species is regarded as of Least Concern conservation status given its more or less stable population (see the Birdlife fact sheet on the species here).

WP occurrences

There are at least three records in Morocco (Thévenot et al 2003, De Juana et al 2005):

  • West Sahara (Oued Ad-Deheb). Accidental.
    • 2 at Sbayera, 7 Jun 1955
    • Reported at Nouhadibou, just S of Mauritanian border, Dec.1960
  • Eastern Sahara. Possible record near Boulmane Dadès.April 1989

And there is one accepted record of the species in Spain (regarded as unknown origin, De Juana, E.& el Comité de Rarezas de la Sociedad Española de Ornitología 2005. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2003. Ardeola 52: 185-206., also featured in here.

HOODED VULTURE* Necrosyrtes monachus..On 10.2.2003, N of the Janda area, Cádiz, in the road from N-340 to Benalup, there was an adult or subadult bird of this species (Andy Paterson & Mike Clarke).

In 2004 there was another record mentioned in the website, but captive origin seemed almost certain:

‘One was seen in Ciudad Real province on 15.8.2004 (Rafael Pons, David Fajardo). Origin unknown but 2nd for Spain in recent times. Another was reported from Gibraltar last Spring but as being carrying a chain from one leg it was thought to be an escape (Mario Mosquera, communicated by Ernest FJ Garcia).The bird was photographed carrying a metal ring and falconry equipment, so captive origin is proven (Carlos Gutiérrez Expósito).’

The Ciudad Real 2004 bird

There is even a recent case of an escape of a free-flying bird from a Madrid Zoo, which was eventually recaptured
far from Madrid, at Soria, but this bird, like the august 2004 individual was marked: it carried a metallic ring from the zoo as well as a microchip.

Due to these escape occurrences the species is currently in the E Spanish list but also in the Spanish D list due to the 2003 record.

Can this bird arrive naturally?

With Rüppells’ Vultures Gyps rueppellii now firmly established as natural vagrants to Spain from Africa (see Gutiérrez 2003 for more details) it cannot be discarded (c.f. De Juana 2005) the possibility of Hooded Vulture reaching us naturally.

It is interesting to remember that this species shares almost the same distribution range of Rüppell's Vulture. That area of Africa also holds some overwintering Spanish Eurasian Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus.

Also interesting is an old reference, not included in the recent ‘Birds of the Canary Islands’ book from Martín & Lorenzo though of the possible former presence (XIX century) of the Hooded Vulture in the Canary islands, where now the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) still exists. In these pages from fapas and naturalicante a paper from Fernández y Fernández-Arroyo (1998) states:

‘Manuel Álamo Tavío recoge citas publicadas en la segunda mitad del siglo pasado, de Viera y Clavijo (1866) y A. Cabrera y Díaz (1893), sobre la presencia del buitre encapuchado en las islas de Lanzarote, Fuerteventura y Gran Canaria; como ave migradora y, sorprendentemente, también como nidificante. El mismo autor añade que "actualmente se desconoce cita alguna".’

[Manuel Álamo Tavío collects data published in the second half of XIX century, from Viera and Clavijo (1866) and Cabrera (1893) about the presence of Hooded Vulture in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria islands, as a migrant and, surprisingly, also as a breeding species. The same author adds that 'nowadays no reecords are known']

So caption is needed but, like in the case of the Rüppell’s Vultures, the occurrence of the Hooded Vulture, just in the place where Rüppell’s are more common, around the Straits of Gibraltar clearly points towards a natural vagrancy in the case of absence of any captivity evidence. A desirable observation of a bird in direct migration through the Straits, or still rare but more possible, the collection and analysis of future data will help to clarify the status of this species in Spain and Europe too. In the meantime keep minds, but eyes too, wide open when visiting S Spain. Anything can turn up.

RESUMEN. Alimoche Sombrío,¿un divagante natural a Europa?
El 2.9.2007 se fotografió un ejemplar subadulto de Alimoche Sombrío en Tarifa, Cádiz. La cita se ha conocido recientemente pués había pasado desapercibida. Aunque la especie está en la lista E española en base a casos conocidos de escapes, como uno de 2004 mencionado en y otro de 2007 de un zoo de Madrid, también lo está en la lista D en base a la cita homologada de 2003. Esta cita, de un ave sin marcas, es la segunda para España y Europa. Hay tres citas previas, a parte de la española, en el Paleártico Occidental, las tres en Marruecos. La especie puede ser de origen natural dado el caso precedente del Buitre de Rüppell. Un análisis de futuras citas ayudará a esclarecer el patrón de aparición de esta especie africana en España y Europa.

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