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Bearded vulture chick flies into history books

A bearded vulture chick has been born in the wild in Switzerland – the first such birth in more than a century.

This content was published on April 11, 2007 - 10:38

The Foundation for Bearded Vultures said on Tuesday the parents had been observed taking food to the nest on the Ofen pass in eastern Switzerland.

The most recent recorded bearded vulture birth in the wild dates back to 1885 in Vrin in canton Graubünden.

The new chick is believed to have been born at the end of March.

"As far as we know, the chances of survival are very high after the bird hatches," the Foundation's Chasper Buchli told swissinfo.

The nest is situated at an altitude of 2,500 metres. The chick is expected to remain there for another four months before taking flight.

Buchli said the main risk the chick faced came from other birds of prey and the temperature, which can fall to around freezing point at that altitude.

More chicks?

Another chick could hatch in the next few days at the Swiss National Park, also in eastern Switzerland, according to its director Heinrich Haller.

A third nest has been seen in Valais in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Bearded vultures died out in Switzerland as a result of hunting. The birds were successfully reintroduced into the wild as part of an international programme between 1986 and 2006.

Buchli said 33 bearded vulture chicks had been born in the wild - the first in 1997 in France.

Switzerland can now also claim to have its own baby bearded vulture – but only just. The nest is located barely 200 metres from the Italian border.

swissinfo with agencies

Bearded vultures

A bearded vulture does not look like a typical vulture and is often mistaken for a golden eagle, which lives in the same habitat.

The adult has a long diamond-shaped tail, dark wings and tail and a lighter-coloured head. Black bristles hang at the base of the beak and it has red circles around the eyes.

Young birds are the same size as adults, and are dark with some light patches.

The birds live in mountains and open ranges and can weigh 5-7kg. Their wingspan is 2.7 metres.

Egg laying happens December-February and incubation is up to 58 days. The birds reach adulthood in 5-7 years.

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