From August onwards, M. van Overveld started conducting behavioural observations from a hide at one of the feeding stations to further establish dominance relationships between individually marked birds, particularly those equipped with GPS-devices. Until the end of September, Guirres will be observed twice a week from dusk till dawn (8-14 hours depending on time of food delivery). This work is a continuation of the observations done in February, but since most males defend territories during that period of the year, additional observation were needed focussing especially on males. In the last four weeks more than 170 different birds have visited the feeding station which is more than half of the total number of Guirres currently living on Fuerteventura. On some days, over 140 individuals visited the feeding station, with sometimes groups of up 70 birds feeding simultaneously.
The high number of Guirres currently visiting the feeding station is an intriguing phenomenon. Obviously, some breeding birds are less attached to their breeding territory during this part of the year, allowing them to visit this easy food resource, but many other factors may potentially play a role. In addition, there is currently also much more food available to the vultures from the slaughterhouse. Many tourists are enjoying Fuerteventura for holidays in August and their presence substantially increase the overall consumption of pork. In fact, approximately 4 times more pork heads are now available to the vultures compared to February. One could argue that the higher availability of food is a beneficial aspect of mass tourism on the local vulture population, or more broadly, reflects how vultures and humans co-exist in the future. On the other hand, it may also reflect a downwards spiral showing that mass consumption promotes farm intensification on Fuerteventura, thereby forcing vultures in a sort of dependent position. An important, but very challening aspect of our work is to understand the extent to which healthy, self-sustaining vulture populations can exist in modern times.
Important note: many people have tried to visit the feeding station over the last month, despite a clear sign at the entrance stating this is strictly forbidden. I would like to again emphasize that there is no point of walking to the feeding station to watch vultures. This will only disturb them because they are very sensitive birds and they will simply fly away. The hide is used for scientific purposes only.