Yellow-billed Kite

Shachar Shalev 04/08/2018 00:00

When we think of kites we think of children playing and laughing in the wind while acquiring the skills to keep a piece of plastic aloft. Lately kites have become serious business, front page headlines everyday as they carry flames and destruction across the Gazan border into the Negev.

It is perhaps a coincidence that when a good friend from the Gaza region turned up in Eilat a very different kind of Kite appeared too. Under the burning sun of an Eilati summer the few birders who come to visit generally cling to North Beach during the early morning and late evening. This summer has seen excellent numbers of Bridled Terns, Skuas and occasionally groups of Lesser Crested Terns. It has also seen many birdless evenings in the searing heat so making the visit is always a gamble.



Lesser Creasted Terns      Photo: Shachar Shalev


As a local birder with North Beach only 5 minutes from home I can check it every evening and enjoy the best birds the Red Sea brings. But I also check my entire patch regularly just in case something turns up.

KM 19 is not an attractive spot in summer but it certainly has the potential for a vagrant so I scan it at least twice a week. Friday morning I met Dominic Standing and Itai Hurling at North Beach. Wednsday evening's bonanza of Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns had whetted their appetite and we hoped for at least a few of these birds. But it was a very quiet morning and my friends soon decided to start the journey back north again.


I strongly advised them to check out KM19 and KM20 but they had other plans. I had my ritual coffee at the Bird Sanctuary with Noam, Tzadok and Re'a. After catching up with all the gossip I checked the Park pools and canal which had good numbers of waders and then sped up to Km20 - very quiet - and finally KM19. I do this route so often I'm on auto-pilot and day-dreaming away as I pull in towards KM 19.

Fortunately the auto-bird alert is even stronger and I hit the brakes without really knowing why. The dogs sitting in the rear crash ungraciously on the floor, the coffee spills and the camera rolls off the seat and onto a bag placed specifically to prevent the camera getting damaged.This is something that happens at least three times every time I go birding. It takes a few moments but there is a raptor sitting on a pole that shouldn't be here. There is a Steppe Buzzard that sits here all winter but the only raptors we see here during the summer are Barbary Falcons, Sooty Falcons and Kestrels… Long-legged Buzzard is also possible but not common anymore.



Yellow-billed Kite at K19        Photo: Shimon Shiff


I'm already thinking Yellow-billed Kite before I put the bins on him and what do you know, the bill is all yellow… pale yellow but still unlike any other raptor I know. It has a real buzzard feel about it and I'd like to see it fly to make sure it's not some mutant buzzard. But I also don't want to scare it off before the others see it, memories of the Dark Chanting Goshawk I watched climb higher and higher into the sky as the twitchers were screaming down the road. So I called Noam and Re'a and sent Dominic a message, unfortunately he was well on his way north.


The boys arrived and soon scared the bird away but a few seconds in the air was enough to see this was no buzzard. Despite the heavily worn and moulting plumage this was clearly a Yellow-billed Kite- only the third record for Israel! I know we're going to hear lots of arguments about whether it's a species or sub-species.... what's for sure is it's a vagrant and well worth visiting!



Third for Israel - Yellow-billed Kite - southrn Arava July/August 2018      Photo: Aviv Etzion


Photo: Eldad Golan
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