Some rare and unusual vultures have been seen in Israel this winter – including a very rare bearded vulture, and record numbers of black vultures. Both species bred in Israel in the past but are rarely seen these days.
The Black vulture was known only from northern Israel during the late 19th century and early 20th century and probably became extinct with the introduction of the modern rifle in the Middle East during WWI and the massive felling of oaks in order create coal to power the developing train system. Yet, every winter and rarely during the summer, a few juvenile Black vultures winter in Israel, mainly in the Golan heights with single birds wintering or visiting Mt. Carmel and also the Judea plains and the arid areas as the Negev desert. This winter up to 9 different birds have been seen.
The Bearded had disappeared as a breeder in the early 1980’s and shortly afterwards became a very rare winter visitor. From a population of 6-7 pairs in the 20th century it became very rare and the last bearded Vulture was observed in 2004 in the Golan height and upper Galilee. However in October 2016 an immature bird showed up, and has been delighting ornithologists and nature lovers in Israel. The bird is observed quite often in Southern Golan Heights, visiting carcasses together with black vultures and few Griffon vultures.
Photos: Shai Sandrovic (bearded vulture), David Rezek, Irad Solnik, Adi Ashkenazi, Eram Hyams
This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation 14 December 2016