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About griffon vultures

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The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) is one of the greatest natural values of Tramuntana, the island of Cres, and the whole of Croatia. On the island of Cres there are two ornithological reserves ("Podokladi" in the middle and „Kruna“ on the northern part of the island) where about 70 nesting couples live.
The reserve on Tramuntana was named after Kruna, the cliff in Podbeli that has been the nesting place of griffons (locally called 'orli') since people can remember. 

DID YOU KNOW …
The island population which lives on the island of Cres (as well as the islands of Krk, Plavnik and Prvić) is unique because here the griffons nest on vertical cliffs just above the sea – sometimes even less than 10 meters from the sea surface. The Griffon Vulture is one of the largest birds which can fly with the wing span up to 2.80 meters and it can weigh up to 15 kg.

… THAT GRIFFON VULTURES ARE FAITHFUL SPOUSES!
They are a long-living species. Some griffons have lived for 60 years. They live in colonies which means that they nest, search for food and rest together. The number of birds in the colony varies (from 2, 3 or 5 couples up to 100 and even more). We count them as couples because once they have found their partner, they stay together for the rest of their life.

… THAT THEY ARE CAREFUL, ROMANTIC!
During the wooing period, the griffons in love spend most of the day in nuptial flights. On Cres, the period of nuptial flights starts in October. The birds fly above each other or next to each other's wing. The bird that is behind constantly follows its partner in the front, repeating its movements with striking accuracy. 
They usually mate in the nest or somewhere in its vicinity. The female has only one egg a year, sometimes even in December, and each parent takes turn to incubate the egg for over two months.

…  THAT THEY FLY FAST!
After the chick hatches, it grows in the nest for four months, before starting to fly on its own in search for food. However, the young stays with its parents for another month or two, who teach him to fly. The griffons can fly with the speed up 160 km/h, and during the search for food they glide without much use of their wings, developing a speed of 40-60 km/h. Griffon vultures eat only dead animals and do not attack the living prey.

… THAT THEY EAT ONLY DEAD ANIMALS – WHICH MAKES THEM NATURE'S CLEANERS!
By finding carcasses and eating them, they stop the spreading of diseases and prevent cattle epidemics. But, carcasses cannot be always found, so the griffons developed a group-like life: they nest in colonies with a larger number of individuals and they search for food in groups. Today, without traditional (extensive) sheep breeding, where the sheep live outside throughout the year (and their mortality is bigger), the griffons would not survive.

… THAT THEY INDIRECTLY DEPEND ON PEOPLE!
Hence, the griffons depend indirectly on people – the shepherds, as well as men depend on them – especially in karst areas where it is very difficult to find and bury dead sheep. Thanks to this relationship, which has lasted for several thousands of years, the griffon vultures are still one of the most beautiful characteristics of our sky. Nevertheless, due to emigration of people from the island of Cres and with less people living on the island, including shepherds, the number of sheep has dropped which means less food for the griffons. This is why we have opened feeding places – „restaurants for griffons“. These are the places that are prepared for leaving the carcasses of dead sheep and other animals. Besides this, these places are also ideal for scientific research of the feeding and daily activities of the griffon vultures. The Ornithological Station Cres, which is also based in the building of the former school in Beli (where the Eco-center is situated as well), also runs research about other birds in the Ornithological reserves  "Kruna" and "Podokladi", as well as the entire surrounding area.

… THAT ECO-CENTRE – BELI IS LOCATED
… ON THE ISLAND OF CRES!    www.supovi.hr

The Centre also has a special role in saving young griffons that fall into the sea or are found ill or wounded. Therefore, behind the building of Eco-Centre we have established a Sanctuary for griffon vultures where the wounded birds recover until they are released back in the nature.
Since 1990, in collaboration with the Ornithological Station Cres HAZU and under the leadership of Goran Sušić PhD, the process of ringing the legs and tagging the wings of young griffon vultures has been carried out on the islands of Kvarner. To date we have marked almost 600 griffon vultures with wing tags and metal rings with a sign and number.
From 2001 we have also been marking them with green plastic rings, which is a part of a large international project, the European Griffon Vulture Working Group (EGVWG).

… THAT THEY BECOME MATURE AFTER FIVE YEARS!
After becoming independent from their parents, young griffons leave the colonies and start their migrations: to the north across Slovenia and Italy up to the Alps and sometimes all the way to Poland and the North Sea, to the south to Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Africa, to the east across Ukraine to Russia and to the west to France and Spain, which is proved by our markers on the birds. When after five years the young griffon reaches sexual maturity, it finds a partner and returns to build a nest, sometimes on the exact same cliff where it was hatched.

… THAT IT IS A SPECIES PROTECTED BY LAW! 
The griffon vulture is a specially protected species according to the Nature Protection Act and its killing, taking its eggs or chicks and disturbance of the birds in their nests is an offence and is penalized by a fine up to 40.000,00 Croatian Kuna (more than 5.000,00 EUR). It is also strictly forbidden to keep a stuffed bird!

 

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