Rare Egyptian Vulture guarded by police and BirdLife during Malta stop

Birders concerned about endangered bird's safety as it makes Malta stop on its way to Sahara from Italy

Photo: Aron Borg
Photo: Aron Borg

An Egyptian Vulture (Avultun Abjad) from an Italian conservation reintroduction programme in Italy anded in the south of Malta in the past hours, and is being being tracked for its movements thanks to a satellite tag.

BirdLife Malta has requested police protection round the clock for the bird and is monitoring it on site.

The vulture’s name is "Leonardo" and it was released in early August at Parco della Murgia Materna (Matera), Basilicata, as part of the LIFE Egyptian Vulture project.

Another Egyptian Vulture from a similar programme had briefly visited Malta four years ago. It was in September 2015 when the satellite-tagged bird, nicknamed "Tobia", spent a night on Malta being guarded by BirdLife Malta and the police.

Egyptian Vultures (𝘕𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘶𝘴) are highly-protected birds, and are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Egyptian Vulture also happens to be one of the seven species whose epic migratory journey is being followed by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia's #FlightForSurvival campaign. This bird is Europe’s only long-distance migratory vulture. Flying up to 640 km per day, it can travel 5,000 km when migrating between its European breeding sites and its wintering grounds at the southern edge of the Sahara.

It is celebrated in the folklore of many cultures, having been admired throughout history for its intelligence, striking yellow face and white plumage. The ancient Egyptians worshipped it as a symbol of the goddess Isis and immortalised its silhouette as a hieroglyph in their writing.

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