Raptors over Eilat

Hadoram Shirihai 09/04/2015 00:00




The World’s Ultimate Hotspot for Palearctic Raptors Migration: Eilat



Eilat in southern Israel is one of the best places in the world for observing migrating Palearctic raptors. Here I provide a summary from my earlier works on the huge raptor migration passing through Eilat.


In Eilat, out of c. 35 (!) raptor species recorded, five species dominate the mass raptor migrations during the spring season (Feb-May), and with two main species that migrate in hundreds of thousands during a single season: Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus (up to 465,000) and Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus (up to 850,000). In addition, three species each include record totals of tens of thousands or more in a single migration spring season: Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis (76,000), Black Kite Milvus migrans (36,000) and Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes (49,000).


By adding together the yearly/spring-max numbers of these five most abundant species, the total is about 1,300,000 migrant raptors, but the true seasonal figure is probably involves few millions.


When planning visit to Eilat during the spring migration, first you should select under which 'cloud' of the five most abundant raptor species you like to observe the migration of the rest, so here I provide the peak periods and the recorded max daily counts:



1st wave: Steppe Eagle - peak 28 Feb - 15 Mar - max 14,164 in a single day.


2nd wave: Black Kite - peak 20 Mar - 5 Apr - max 9,956 in a single day.


3rd wave: Steppe Buzzard - peak 25 Mar - 10 Apr - max 130,000 in a single day.


4th wave: Levant Sparrowhawk - peak 19 Apr - 28 Apr - max 22,747 in a single day.


5th wave: Honey Buzzard - peak 3 May - 16 May - max 227,799 in a single day.



The impression is that among the five most abundant species only the numbers of the Steppe Eagle are on a decline path (probably already by more than 70%), which corresponds with the declines recently reported from breeding grounds in Asia.


About 20 additional raptor species (scarce to rare to almost regular) can be seen during the spring migration in Eilat, these are species that migrate singly or in smaller groups among the main passage of the abundant species, which include the following:


Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus; Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus; Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus; Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus; Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus; Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus; Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus; Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus; Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus; Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina; Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga; Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca; Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus; Osprey Pandion haliaetus; Kestrel Falco tinnunculus; Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni; Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus; Hobby Falco subbuteo; Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae; Sooty Falcon Falco concolor; Lanner Falco biarmicus; Peregrine Falco peregrinus.



Additional c. 10 raptor species recorded as vagrants:


Black-shouldered Kite Elinus caeruleus; Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus; Black Vulture Aegypius monachus; bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus; Goshawk Accipiter gentilis; Shikra Accipiter badius; Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos; Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus; Merlin Falco columbarius; Saker Falco cherrug; Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides.


Noam Waiss, Dan Alon, Jonathan Meyrav and Yossi Leshem, of the IBCE, OSI & SPNI recently renewed the yearly Raptor Migration Survey to facilitate population monitoring, and a real-time information for visiting birders during the spring.  





Follow us to experience the world's best mass migration flyway

of Palearctic raptors - Eilat!


Hadoram Shirihai March 2015

The full summery of my work on raptor migration in Eilat
was published in the journal of British Birds, 1992:
land marks