Captive bred vulture Vicki flies to new life

Vicki the Vulture in her temporary home in Sardinia, where she will be released into the wild.
Vicki the Vulture in her temporary home in Sardinia, where she will be released into the wild.

The team at the National Centre for Birds of Prey (NCBP) in Helmsley has successfully bred its two Griffon Vultures for the first time.

This success has led to what is believed to be the UK’s first ever captive-bred vulture being released into the wild.

The young Helmsley-born Griffon Vulture, christened Vicki, is now fully grown and has been accepted into the Vulture Conservation Foundation’s release programme in Sardinia, where the plan is to release 60 birds to establish a self-sustaining population.

The Duncombe Park-based centre has been home to a disabled pair of Griffon Vultures rescued from the wild since 2012.

After five years of trying to breed them, Charlie Heap, who runs the NCBP, built an incubation room in 2018. The egg was artificially incubated and hatched in April.

Vultures are among the most threatened animals on the planet at the present time. They have largely disappeared from much of their natural habitat in southern Europe and the only place in Europe where Griffon Vultures are thriving is Spain.

Charlie Heap said: “This really has been one of the highlights of my career. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear when this Griffon Vulture hatched in my hand. It’s fantastic to think she will now spend her life soaring over the Mediterranean hills.”