Europe’s largest bird of prey calls on Flanders


Birdwatchers flocked to Heist-op-den-Berg this week to see a wild Eurasian Black Vulture on a rare visit to Flanders

Vulture visit

A Eurasian Black Vulture (pictured) was spotted in Flanders this week, drawing bird enthusiasts from across the region. Usually confined to Spain and France, a wild vulture of this kind has only been seen once before in Belgium.

As the name suggests, the Eurasian Black Vulture can be found across Asia and Europe. Its wingspan of more than 2.5 metres makes it Europe’s largest bird of prey, although rather than hunting it tends to live off of carrion, such as dead sheep and goats.

There are around 2,500 pairs in Europe, although there are concerns about the welfare and survival of the species. According to Flemish conservation organisation Natuurpunt, the vulture sighted in Flanders is from Spain. Rescued from the wild last year in a weakened state, she spent some time recuperating in a Spanish refuge, before being released in October. She took with her a new name – the refuge called her Brinzola – and wearing an electronic tag.

Welcome migrant

It was thanks to a signal from this tag that Flemish birdwatchers were alerted on Tuesday to the vulture's presence in Schriek, part of Heist-op-den-Berg in Antwerp province. They tracked her down the following day and followed her as she moved around the neighbourhood.

Brinzola seemed unconcerned by the attention, although the local wildlife was not so happy. “She has been harassed, mainly by crows and magpies,” Gerald Driessens of Natuurpunt told VRT.

Just why she has come so far north is unclear, but it is still a treat for birdwatchers. “This is a great moment,” Driessens went on. “People know big birds of prey from the zoo, and now they can see one in the wild. They are easier for people to identify with, and that helps conservation organisations spread their message.”

Details of Brinzola’s visit, along with photographs, are logged at the Waarnemingen birdwatching site.

Photo: Jan Vanwynsberghe/Waarnemingen