Swinhoe's Storm-petrel - Oceanodroma monorhis

Species description

Up to date (Sept’ 2016), 5 Storm-Petrels species have been recorded in Israel. Up until the 2000's 3 species were considered to be extremely rare vagrants, namely Wilson's O. oceanicus, Band-Rumped O. castro and Swinhoe's O.monorhis with one record each while 2 species were considered more regular - Leach's O.leucorhoa and European H.pelagicus.

Records from the last 18 years indicate that the status of some of the species may be different than previously thought.


It is important to bear in mind that large portion of the incomplete understanding of what's hanging out in both Eastern Mediterranean and Red-Sea Waters is a result of almost complete lack of pelagic cruises, Chumming etc. Some of the very few (almost handful) boat-trips that have taken place (even for a short time and / or very close to the shore) resulted in great treasures i.e the first Streaked and Tropical Shearwater to the WP during June 1992 (Shirihai et al.) or the 3rd Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel in April 2003 or last week Willsons's & Swinhoe's.

Other than handful of cases, all Procellariformes knowledge in Israel comes almost entirely from coastline scoping, and for Storm-Petrels it is clearly not enough.  


Swinhoe's Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis - first recorded in Israel: one found dead at Eilat's North Beach on 13th January 1958 (Paz in Shirihai 96'). The species has not been recorded again until 8th Sep 2001 when a bird flew into a Hotel's seafront window and died shortly afterwards. One found moribund at sea, off Eilat, following a major southern Storm on 19th April 2003 (Smith, Mizrachi, Granit, Sapir & Tzairi). The 4th record was of a bird crushing into a lamp at the north beach in September 2004, found wounded and again died shortly afterwards.

On 24 January 2008 another moribund bird was brought dead to the IBRCE. Finally, the end all this mistery, a live and happy bird observed from Eilat's Southern Beach on 6th May 2016 (Doug Goshfeld), the 6th record if accepted, and last - the 7th record and the 2nd happy bird of the 12-13 September 2016 (Noam Weiss et al.).


The Swinhoe's records represent very nicely the partial-to-wrong picture that we have on species like Storm-Petrels: Without all the wounded and dead birds, there would be only one certain, well documented record - the last week's bird (!) with the addition of only one undocumented report from May 2016. It is also almost funny to think that until 2001 the species had been considered to be extremely rare vagrant when the probable real status is that the species is most likely annual (or even more common than that) in the head of the gulf of EIlat with records covering all seasons: 2 winter records (Janauary), 2 Spring records (April and May) and 3 late summer/autumn records (September).

At least for now, it appears that Swinhoe's is the commonest Storm-Petrel species in Eilat.


Source: Barak Granit - Storm Petrels in Israel - Sep' 2016



Walking on the water



Deep Sea bird monitoring pays off - Wilson's and Swinhoe's Storm Petrels in Eilat!



Sea Watching is not for everyone. Sitting day after day, scanning the empty sea nonstop, just hoping for a glimpse of a small black bird that you probably won't be able to identify anyway. But this is how I spent my teenage summer vacations, down in Eilat, every summer, on the beach. Praying for 10 seconds with the "walker on the water" - The Wilson's Storm Petrel, which was seen there when I was just becoming a birder. It was hard and got even harder, because a day after I left to go back to school, Avner Rotschild (whom I spent with all those summers with) got his 10 seconds with a black bird at sea.

It was too dark and too far, however which probably left him even more frustrated. It always bugged me. Maybe if I found it 5 seconds earlier, we would have had it.


The desire never really left me; so 30 years later, I went to the marine biologists of the Interuniversity Institute (they have a boat available), and I convinced them that marine biology also includes little black birds that fly above the water.

We developed an official protocol and started the "deep sea bird monitoring" research project far off shore, where only these creatures fly. My secretary respects me enough (she knows I'm weird) to prepare some crushed fish guts and freeze them, so we were all set.

The first 2 sessions felt just like my childhood - empty and meaningless, but full of hope for something better. A few dolphins made the marine biologist quite excited, but they were kind of gray.





And then on the 3rd session it happened, a dark bird flew in rapidly along the boat - A Swinhoe's Storm Petrel, and then slowed down to show me who he was. A few seconds later another bird crossed our path, but it had a patch of white, dragging very long legs behind - a demon, or was it it? A Wilson's Storm Petrel was just walking on the water in front of my salty eyes, like out of a movie I had seen a million times in my mind.

For 30 minutes it stayed in view, I almost want to count the seconds! 30 minutes observation of a bird usually leaves you complacent with a bird, but not this one. I don't remember much of what happened after. We got to shore somehow, and the spokesman of SPNI called every journalist he knows and it was all over the news. An Antarctic bird had made it to Eilat. Birders were calling and asking for the location, but I only remembered the moments with the walker. We have quite the history of things walking on water here, but this was the real thing, at least for me. My dream bird was here and I even got to photograph it.


What's next? The IBRCE and the IUI will continue with the deep sea monitoring program. Who knows what might show up next!

This Wilson's Storm Petrel is the second ever observation in Israel and Eilat, and the Swinhoe's Storm Petrel is the sixth.


Source: "Birds of Eilat" Birding blog - 19.9.16

Conservation Levels

Where can we observe Swinhoe's Storm-petrel

Weekly Bar Chart

Last Observations

Date Coordinates Count Observer
06/09/2019 Deep Sea Station 1 Yoav Perlman
02/06/2018 מפרץ אילת 1 Noam Weiss
15/09/2017 1 Noam Weiss


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