Monitoring Egyptian Vulture Migration at the Galala Observatory

Galala Mountains (Egypt), April 2022 – During the migratory seasons (every spring and autumn), over 1.5 million birds migrate over the Galala Mountains, which extend along the Gulf of Suez, from Ain Sukhna to Zaafarana in Egypt.

Approximately, 1,100 Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus), a globally endangered scavenger that is distributed across Africa, Asia, and Southern Europe, migrate over this bottleneck site every year, together with a large number of many other migratory raptors, including Steppe Buzzards (>116,000 birds), Black Kites (>10,000 birds), and Steppe Eagles (>8,000 birds).

Given that Egyptian Vultures as well as other vultures and raptors can be easily spotted at this bottleneck area of bird migration, Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE) has recently established the Galala Observatory at the site. A permanent monitoring station founded under the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project, the Observatory is hoped to become a hotspot for the monitoring of raptors and other migratory species, the study of other migratory species, and attract birdwatching tourism in Egypt. The altitude of the site provides a unique close-up monitoring experience of the seasonal raptor migration event.

In March 2022, NCE, in collaboration with BirdLife International, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and in partnership with the Ministry of Environment in Egypt, launched a raptor count monitoring programme in Galala, with the aim of counting Egyptian Vultures and other raptor species that winter in Africa, migrate along the Red Sea, and pass the region of Galala on their northward-bound journey back to breeding grounds in Europe and the Middle East.

Up to the date of issuing this article (28 April 2022), the multinational monitoring team working at the site has counted an approximate of 377,488 birds in total during the spring autumn season in 2022, including 1,215 Egyptian Vultures, 218,474 Steppe Buzzards, 41,115 Black Kites, 14,418 Lesser Spotted Eagles, and 12,975 Steppe Eagles, among many other species. The daily total counts of migratory raptors are updated regularly/daily and can be found on this website.

This unique experience of observing a wide diversity of raptors (over 15 species in a day, including endangered species), renders the Galala Observatory as one of the best sites for bird monitoring in Egypt and probably in Northeast Africa. Furthermore, the moderate weather conditions and the high altitude of the site, give the monitoring sites additional value for birdwatching tourism and bird photography.

Monitoring birds of prey is among one of the key commitments by the Signatories to the Raptors MOU. The role of Egyptian Government is playing with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to address monitoring and data collection needs for the conservation of migratory raptors is highly appreciated.

Last updated on 28 April 2022

Middle East
Neophron percnopterus
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