Israel - Crossroads for Migrant Birds
Abstract from Ibis
21st May 1996
A paper in the latest issue of Ibis (138, 188-203) establishes Israel as a very important country for the migration of soaring birds. The numbers involved have been counted accurately by a string of observers covering the whole width of the country and radar observations and brought together by Yossi Leshem and Yoram Yom-Tov. The autumn figures were about 500,000 raptors, 250,000 White Storks and 70,000 White Pelicans and spring was even higher with a millionm raptors and 450,000 White Storks. No fewer than 35 different species of raptors were involved with Honey Buzzards featuring heavily in both spring and autumn but, of the major species, Lesser Spotted Eagles and Levant Sparrowhawks were autumn species and Steppe Buzzards, Steppe Eagles and Black Kites were spring species.
Variations between years in numbers was quite high - probably mostly to do with weather or counting effort. The total World population Lesser Spotted Eagle and Levant Sparrowhawk and the Pelearctic population of White Pelicans passed over each year. For other species it is clear that the previously published population estimates are grossly too small - even in some cases an order of magnitude too small! The mean numbers for some species were as follows:
Spring Autumn Honey Buzzard 361,279 345,456 Levant Sparrowhawk 28,134 34,592 Lesser Spotted Eagle ------- 93,166 Steppe Eagle 28,134 ------- Steppe Buzzard 321,021 ------- Black Kite 28,418 ------- Red-footed Falcon ------- 2,847 White Stork ------- 416,414 White Pelican ------- 71,421
The mean arrival dates of the raptors is very predicatable with confidence limits ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 days - so holiday makers can plan very precicely what they want to see - but White Storks and White Pelicans are not so predictable - confidence limits 4.2 to 13.8 days. The flocking species pass in a very consentrated period. The period in autumn when 90% of the passage takes place is 13 days for Levanmt Sparrowhawk, 15 days for Lesser Spotted Eagle, 16 days for Honey Buzzard and 18 days for Red-frooted Falcon. Individual migrants - Egyptian Vulture, Marsh Harrier and Short-toed Eagle take twice as long. The timing and spread of the migration for each species was affected by age at first breeding, diet and the extent of the breeding area.
Not only is this paper an important summary of knowledge but it does draw further attention to one of the major corridors of migration in the World. The peak numbers in spring (six years 1977 - 1987) and autumn (nine years from 1982 - 1990) were as follows:
Spring Autumn Short-toed Eagle 345 8,045 Osprey 147 79 Lesser Spotted Eagle 74 141,868 Steppe Eagle 75,073 456 Imperial Eagle 95 37 Spotted Eagle 11 85 Golden Eagle 9 Booted Eagle 175 1,973 Long-legged Buzzard 105 62 Steppe Buzzard 465,827 2,166 Honey Buzzard 851,598 437,432 Black Kite 31,774 1,734 Egytian Vulture 802 474 Griffon Vulture 17 76 Marsh Harrier 371 1,534 Hen Harrier 21 Montagu's Harrier 44 103 Pallid Harrier 113 57 Levant Sparrowhawk 49,836 44,653 Sparrowhawk 468 1,761 Goshawk 3 Peregrine 4 20 Eleonora's Falcon 16 44 Hobby 54 59 Red-footed Falcon 5,752 Saker Falcon 2 Lanner Falcon 7 Lesser Kestrel 54 Biggest year total 1,193,751 603,846
Note these figures have been reconstructed from tables which have at least one error in them. Birds not identified to species are omitted.
Bird On! may eventually carry information on birding world-wide and tell you which companies run tours to which countries. We are not able to carry such services at the moment but, if your appetite is whetted, there are many different tours run specifically to watch the raptor migration in both spring and autumn. In particular there are excellent facilities at Eilat and research work goes on there each year.