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Revealed: How Vigo the bearded vulture came to soar over Norfolk and what her origins are

PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 07:56 14 October 2020

File photo of a bearded vulture in flight. Image: Luca Casale/Creative Commons licence

File photo of a bearded vulture in flight. Image: Luca Casale/Creative Commons licence

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It fascinated twitchers in Norfolk when it soared through the county’s airspace, in what is believed to be a first ever.

A bearded vulture - also called a Lammergeier - was spotted near the Norfolk village of Foxley. Picture: James LowenA bearded vulture - also called a Lammergeier - was spotted near the Norfolk village of Foxley. Picture: James Lowen

However, until now quite how a bearded vulture came to perform a spectacular Norfolk flyby was largely speculation.

Now though, genetic analysis of two of its feathers have revealed just how the bird, nicknamed Vigo, came to visit the county and what its origins are.

The analysis has revealed the rapturously received raptor was a female that hatched in a wild nest in the French Alps as part of a programme to rejuvenate the species dating back to 1986.

In the absence of any ring, tag or markings, the only way to find out more about its background was by genetic analysis of a blood sample or feathers, said the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), which works to conserve European vultures.

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With the help of two small feathers collected in the Peak District by local Yorkshire birder David Ball, experts from Swiss conservation group Stiftung Pro Bartgeier were able to determine that the vulture was female and had come from the French Alps.

VCF director Jose Tavares said: “The VCF and partners have been releasing captive-bred bearded vultures in the Alps since 1986, to bring back the species to the region after it was hunted and poisoned to extinction.

“Today there are 60-plus breeding pairs, in what is considered one of the greatest wildlife comeback stories of our times.”

After three months ranging out from the Peak District, the bird headed south in September to Oxfordshire, before turning north again to arrive in Norfolk and then on to the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire fens.

The bird was spotted last month by nature enthusiast and travel writer James Lowen, who was able to capture it near Foxley.

He said: “It was a shock to see such a huge bird fly over the road. I’m pleased that lots of local birdwatchers got to see Vigo before she departed.”

People are urged to help improve the bird’s chances of survival by sharing any observations of it with ibm@4vultures.org to help monitor its condition and health.


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