Follow Hadoram to Eilat and Negev

IOC 09/04/2015 00:00



Hadoram Shirihai

Global field birder and ornithologist



Jonathan Meyrav


Hadoram grew up in Israel and started birding "under the wings" of Yossi Leshem in the Jerusalem youth birders club. When he was only 18 years old, and with the encouragement of his mentor Israeli birder Ehud Dovrat, Hadoram moved south to Eilat. In the early 80's Hadoram founded the Eilat International Birdwatching Center and served as its first director.

During his years in Eilat, Hadoram found no less than 50 new bird species to Israel, 10 of which were also new to the Western Palearctic region, these included rarities such as Streaked Shearwater, Yellow-breasted Bunting (found when he was just 17 years old), Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Crested Honey Buzzard, Pectoral Sandpiper, Pintail Snipe, Sabine's Gull, Oriental Skylark, Hume’s Short-toed Lark, Basra Reed Warbler, Hume's Leaf Warbler and many more.


Hadoram quickly established himself as the leading authority for birding in Israel and for many years led thousands of visiting birders in Eilat and beyond.

In the mid 90's Hadoram released the "Birds of Israel" (Academic Press, London, 1996), a groundbreaking book about the Avifauna of Israel. The book won many prizes including the prestigious "Best Book of the Year" Award (British Birds) and is considered a "must have" for any serious WP birder or ornithologist.


Hadoram's extensive time in the field led to the publication of the Macmillan Guide (1996), a field guide that focuses on complex identification issues in birds of Europe and the Middle East, and the Sylvia Warblers monograph (Princeton University Press, 2001), which was based on 15 years of research. Sylvia Warblers was considered as the best bird monograph ever published and received best "Book-of-the-year awards" by both British Birds and Birdwatch.


In the early 2000's Hadoram spread his wings and set out to the world. He was embraced by several leading publishers, scientific organizations and individuals that supported him to embark on several extraordinary projects. From scouring the Southern Seas to wading in dangerous tropical jungles Hadoram found and documented many of the world's rarest birds.





Over the years Hadoram discovered several species and subspecies that were new to science. One of his most incredible discoveries in Israel started as early as 1985 when Hadoram noted that the Strix owl found in the deserts of Southern Israel was something different, possibly an overlooked species. This story concluded 30 years later in 2015, with the Desert Tawny Owl finally being recognized to be a new species to science and horned as Strix hadorami in recognition of Hadoram's role in the discovery.


Hadoram discovered, rediscovered and was the first to document no less than six “lost” Gadfly Petrels worldwide.  One of the most important and inspiring cases was the rediscovery of the Beck's Petrel in the Bismarcks - Papua New Guinea, a species that was considered extinct.

Throughout his travels Hadoram visited nearly all the Tropical Pacific Islands and the Sub Antarctic Islands (the latter during his 12 seasons in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean).                  He is also the only ornithologist in the world that has seen (and documented most in the wild) all the living recognized taxa of the world's Tubenoses - Albatrosses, Petrels, Shearwaters and Storm petrels!


Hadoram's extensive fieldwork led to the preparation of several book projects, including the following important wildlife guides:  


The Complete Guide for Antarctic Wildlife" (A & C Black/Bloomsbury, London; 2007)

The "Marine Mammals Guide" (A & C Black/Bloomsbury, London; 2006), covering the world’s Whales, Dolphins and Seals, that has become the must have "bible" for marine biologists worldwide. During the latter project Hadoram took on free diving practices and learned to hold his breath for extended periods underwater, enabling him to dive with more than 40 of the marine mammals of the world, including most of the great whales.


2 more exciting projects that will soon be released are the long-awaited, the Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds (Bloomsbury, London), by Shirihai & Svensson (to be published in 2016), and the still long in the making, the Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation (Bloomsbury, London), by Shirihai & Bretagnolle (to be published 2020).


In recent years Hadoram is involved in a truly monumental project: establishing the first scientific photographic collection of the bird of the world. He has already photographed more than 1/2 of the world's birds - 5,500 species, and the project continues. Preparations for the first release of the latter global project are already underway, the forthcoming Illustrated Checklist to the Birds of the Neotropics (Bloomsbury, London), by H. Jornvall, G. Kirwan & H. Shirihai.


We at the Israel Ornithological Center are happy that in recent years Hadoram is spending more and more time in Israel and is getting involved with many of our activities. Hadoram is helping with important field work involving sensitive species in Israel and is helping us promote our international events, Bird Festivals and the Champions of the Flyway in Eilat, which will forever remain in his heart.



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