The Sarimazi Raptor Count: Monitoring Egyptian Vulture Migration

Sarimazi (Turkey), October 2019 - The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), a globally endangered scavenger, is distributed across Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. An estimated 2000 pairs, around 25% of its global population, occur in Turkey, which makes the country home to one of the largest breeding populations of Egyptian Vultures in the world. Every year, they migrate from South Eastern Europe via key bottlenecks in Turkey towards their wintering grounds in Africa, and back. A preliminary study conducted in 2013 by Doğa Derneği and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in the frame of the concluded LIFE project The Return of the Neophron revealed the region around Sarimazi (Adana province) as one of the major bottlenecks in southern Turkey hosting large concentrations of Egyptian Vultures and other species of migratory raptors and soaring birds.
The population of the Egyptian Vulture is in rapid decline, both in the Balkan region and worldwide. Since no trend information exists of the larger adjacent population in western Turkey, an annual Sarimazi Raptor Count was established in 2018 under the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project. It follows the model of the Batumi Raptor Count, a large-scale research effort that has been organised for many years in Batumi, Georgia. As a long-term programme, the Sarimazi Raptor Count aims to monitor the trends in the Balkan and western-Turkish populations of Egyptian Vultures and other raptors (e.g. Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk) that migrate around the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Sarimazi Raptor Count is conducted throughout September from three observation points near the town of Sarimazi with the help of international experts and volunteers. The results of this year’s count, which are updated daily during the counting period, are presented on this website – in total, 152.967 birds were counted during the autumn count in 2019, including 903 Egyptian vultures, 45.562 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 30.157 Levant Sparrowhawks, 13.121 Short-toed Eagles and many more. This monitoring work is part of wider efforts undertaken to protect Egyptian Vultures, their breeding territories, migration paths, and wintering grounds within the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project and should also benefit a number of other migratory birds. 
The monitoring at Sarimazi also has an educational element with the goal of training local project partners in Turkey and attracting more volunteers. Would you like to join the next Sarimazi Raptor Count? Participation in this programme offers spectacular views of the autumn mass migration of thousands of different raptors of many species. If you are a keen birdwatcher with good eyesight and raptor identification skills, please send your application (CV and cover letter) to [email protected], subject ”Sarimazi  Raptor Count Application”. Physical fitness and preparedness is a must in order to endure direct sunlight exposure and high temperatures seven days a week for 8 hours daily. You should also be able to follow protocols and record data accurately, show high proficiency with computers and data entry and be flexible and capable of working independently and as part of a culturally diverse team.

Last updated on 05 May 2020

Neophron percnopterus
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