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Bulletin 6:01 on Rare Birds in Israel: Updated National Bird Species List
By Nir Sapir, on behalf of the Israeli Rarities and Distribution Committee (IRDC)
2 March 2007
In 1996 Hadoram Shirihai published his comprehensive work on 'The Birds of Israel' (Shirihai 1996) and included 511 bird species recorded by the time of publication in the country. During the following 11 years, many changes occurred in the local avifauna: more vagrant species were recorded, several exotic bird species have spread and are now well established in the wild, and the origin of several species that were considered genuine vagrants in the past was re-evaluated. The aim of this document is to summarize the changes in the Israeli list of bird species, according to the guidelines of the Association of the European Rarities Committees (AERC) and based on the decisions of the reformed Israeli Rarities and Distribution Committee (IRDC) that became active in 2000. The bird list that accompanies this document is based on the 15th draft of the AERC TAC (Taxonomy committee) checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region (Association of European Rarities Committees website), with some additional changes after the publication of this draft, by the AERC TAC (Sangster et al. 2002) and by the taxonomy subcommittee of the British Union of Ornithologists (Knox et al. 2002, Sangster et al. 2004).
In accordance with AERC guidelines, the list of the birds of Israel only includes species that are assigned to categories A, B and C, while species assigned solely to categories D and E are excluded from it. The definitions of these five species categories are found below:
Category A: Species which has been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since 1 January 1950.
Category B: Species that were recorded in an apparently natural state at least once up to 31 December 1949, but have not been recorded subsequently.
Category C: Species that, although originally introduced by man, either deliberately or accidentally, have established breeding populations derived from introduced stock, and maintain themselves without necessary recourse to further introduction.
Category D: Species that would otherwise appear in categories A or B except that there is reasonable doubt that they have ever occurred in a natural state.
Category E: Species that have been recorded as introductions, transportees or escapees from captivity, and whose breeding populations (if any) are thought not to be self sustaining.
A summary of the changes in the Israeli bird species list that has taken place since the publication of Shirihai (1996) is found below. The complete and updated list of the birds of Israel following these changes is published on the IRDC webpages, at (http://www.israbirding.com/irdc/bulletins/irdc_list). This checklist will be updated on an annual basis.
1) Additions to the list of the birds of Israel
a. New species of vagrants (Category A species)
1. Southern Pochard, Netta erythrophthalma - The 1st Israeli and Western Palearctic record; a single individual, resembling adult female but exact age/sex not fully established. Found in "Km 20" area, north of Eilat during 29th April to 8th May 1998 (B. Granit, D. Gelbart, H. Shirihai et al.). Documented by description and photographs. The bird was possibly already seen on 22nd April by J. Sibert; however, the committee did not receive any formal, reliable report regarding this observation. See also Shirihai (2000) and IRDC Bulletin 1:02.
2. Soft-plumaged Petrel, Pterodroma mollis - The 1st Israeli and the 1st confirmed Western Palearctic record; a single individual. Found in Eilat's north beach during 25th March 1997 (E. Hirschfeld, H. Shirihai et al.). Documented by description only. See also Shirihai (1999) and IRDC Bulletin 2:02.
3. Masked Booby, Sula dactylatra - The 1st Israeli, the 1st Mediterranean Sea and about the 5th record for the West Palearctic region; a single adult. Found in Rishon LeTsiyon Beach, Dan region, during 16th July 2004 (I. Amir). Documented by photographs. See also IRDC Bulletin 5:01.
4. European Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis - The 1st Israeli record; a juvenile bird, apparently of the Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii. Found in Ma'agan Michael coast during 18th July 2005 and remained in the area at least until 24th June 2006 (B. Granit et al.). Documented by description and photographs. The details of this record will appear on the forthcoming bulletin of the IRDC that will summarize the records reviewed by the committee in 2006.
5. Lesser Frigatebird, Fregata ariel - The 1st Israeli and Western Palearctic record; a female type individual. Found in Eilat's north beach during 1st December 1997 (R. Riddington, J. Reid). Documented by description and field sketches. See also Riddington & Reid (2000) and IRDC Bulletin 1:02.
This record was followed by an additional record of this species, the 2nd Israeli and Western Palearctic record, also of a female type individual found in Eilat's north beach during 6th May 1999 (L. van Welie et al.) and documented by description and field sketches. See also IRDC Bulletin 2:01.
6. Intermediate Egret, Mesophoyx (Egretta) intermedia - The 1st Israeli record; single individual. Found in Yotvata sewage ponds during 6th to 17th November 2004 (T. Landsberger, D. Shapiro et al.). Documented by photographs. The details of this record will appear in a forthcoming bulletin of the IRDC that will summarize the records reviewed by the committee in 2006.
7. Lesser Flamingo, Phoenicopterus minor - The 1st Israeli record; a single adult individual. Found in Eilat's northern saltpans ("Km 20" area) during 19th March to 4th July 2006 (S. Annenkova, J. P. Smith, V. Ashby et al.). Documented by photographs. This record has yet to be accepted by the IRDC, but is included here as acceptance by the committee is anticipated and the species should be included in the list of Israeli birds.
8. Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum - The 1st Israeli record; a single adult individual. Found in Be'er Sheva sewage ponds during 2nd to 3rd October 1999 (E. Shochat et al.). Documented by description and photographs. See IRDC Bulletin 1:01.
9. Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis - The 1st Israeli record; an individual in almost full breeding plumage. Found in Eilat's sewage ponds and northern saltpans ("Km 19" and "Km 20" areas), during 15th to 22nd April 2003 (B. Granit, D. Gelbart et al.). Documented by description and photographs. See IRDC Bulletin 4:01.
10. White-rumped Sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis - The 1st Israeli record; an adult or first-summer bird in breeding plumage. Found in Ma'ayan Tsvi fishponds during 26th April 2004 (D. Gelbart et al.). Documented by description and photographs. See IRDC Bulletin 5:01.
11. Baird's Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii - The 1st Israeli record; a juvenile/first-winter bird. Found in Ma'agan Michael fishponds during 17th October 1998 (I. Tsurim, E. Shochat & N. Sapir). Documented by descriptions only. See IRDC Bulletin 1:01.
12. Franklin's Gull, Larus pipixcan - The 1st Israeli and Middle-Eastern record; an adult bird in summer-plumage. Found in Eilat's northern saltpans ("Km 20" area) during 3rd to 6th June 2003 (J. P. Smith et al.). Documented by description and photographs. See IRDC Bulletin 4:01.
This record was followed by an additional record of this species, the 2nd Israeli and Middle Eastern record, also of an adult in summer-plumage found in Eilat's north beach during 1st to 4th July 2006 (Y. Perlman et al.) and documented by description and photographs. The details of the latter record will appear in the forthcoming bulletin of the IRDC that will summarize the records reviewed by the committee in 2006. Franklin's Gull is the first Nearctic gull ever to be discovered in Israel.
13. Red-flanked Bluetail, Tarsiger cyanurus - The 1st Israeli record; a first-winter or female. Found near Tsfat (Galilee region) during 1st to 31st January 1996 (B. Granit et al.). Documented by description and photographs. See also IRDC Bulletin 1:02.
14. Eye-browed Thrush, Turdus obscurus - The 1st Israeli record; a first-winter bird. Found in the park of the International Birding and Research Center in Eilat (IBRCE) during 17th October 1996 (John Morgan, Christophe Gruwier). The bird was ringed, measured and released, and is documented by photographs in the hand. See also IRDC Bulletin 5:01.
b. New species as a result of changes in taxonomic treatment (Category A species)
The following forms were formerly treated as sub-species, but following the AERC TAC recommendations, they are now awarded full species status.
1. Balearic Shearwater, Puffinus mauretanicus - Considered in the past as subspecies of Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, Balearic Shearwater is now considered a full species (Sangster et al. 2002). This species is an extreme rarity with only two records in Israel: One bird in Ma'agan Michael beach on 1st March 1982 (H. Shirihai). See also Shirihai (1996, 1999); One bird in Yaffo port on 9th January 2002 (N. Sapir, Y. Perlman, D. Gelbart and E. Banker). See also IRDC Bulletin 2:01.
2. Red-tailed (Persian) Wheatear, Oenanthe chrysopygia - Formerly considered subspecies of the form that is now named Kurdish Wheatear Oenanthe xanthoprymna. The latter form is a rather rare bird in Israel, while the former form is an extreme rarity with just a single record in the country: One at Nizzana on 11th April 1990 (A. Hogg). See also Shirihai (1996).
3. Sykes's Warbler, Hippolais rama - Formerly considered a subspecies of Booted Warbler (Hippolais caligata). These two forms are now treated as distinct species (Knox et al. 2002). Both species are extremely rare in Israel. Of the eight national records of these two forms, all appearing in Shirihai (1996), three were assigned to Sykes's Warbler and two were assigned to Booted Warbler while the rest remain unidentified at the species level and are treated as Sykes's/Booted Warbler. The committee will welcome any material involving these latter records in order to review their identification according to present knowledge on the identification of these two species.
c. New species of established exotic birds (Category C species)
The IRDC decided to include several new bird species, originated from human-related introduction, in the Israeli bird species list. These species have maintained a sustainable population in Israel for several years and are therefore included here as Category C species.
1. Black-hooded Parakeet, Nandayus nenday - This introduced parrot species maintains sustainable (though apparently not expanding) population in the Pardes-Hanna - Karkur area over the past twenty years or so.
2. Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus - This species is a well established introduced bird in the Tel-Aviv area (notably at Yarkon Park) and is constantly expanding its distribution range since its introduction to the area in the mid to late 1990's.
3. Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis - One of the most successful introduced species in the country, established in the wild since the late 1990's and rapidly expanding. Characterized by high local abundances and wide distribution range, primarily in the greater Tel-Aviv area, but also in many other low altitude sites from Be'er-Sheva and the southern Dead Sea area in the south to the Galilee in the north.
4. Vinous-breasted Myna, Acridotheres burmannicus - Another example of Southeast-Asian introduced species, found in small pockets mainly in the greater Tel-Aviv area since the first years of the new millennium and is slowly increasing in population size.
In addition to the species listed above, several other introduced species have been recorded in the wild as resident breeders, but since their populations are small and isolated, and because it is not clear if these populations are sustainable, they were not included here. In the future the IRDC will re-assess the status of these, and potentially other, newer, introduced species, and decide whether to include them in the Israeli list of bird species. Among the species that are not listed here and are known to breed in the wild, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus is the only species that appeared in the past in natural state in the country, and Shirihai (1996) mentions a total of seven birds of this vagrant species that were recorded in Israel between 1956 and 1988. Following the release of Egyptian geese to the wild in the past several years, and the obvious uncertainty regarding the origin of the birds that were recorded in the country since 1956, the IRDC decided to assign all the records appearing in Shirihai (1996) into Category D, while those that involve birds recorded in the country up until the 1930's will be assign into Category B. Since the species appears to breed in the country (zoo-escaped/released birds), it is a candidate to become a Category C species in the near future.
2) Omissions from the list of the birds of Israel
1. Persian Shearwater, Puffinus persicus - Persian shearwater is treated in Shirihai (1996) as a full species, but according to the AERC TAC checklist of bird taxa occurring in the Western Palearctic region, it is considered as subspecies of Audubon's Shearwater P. lherminieri, and following this list, Persian Shearwater will no longer be treated as a full species. Single individuals of this form were recorded in Israel in January 22nd 1985 (E. Dovrat & R. Mizrachi) and in 4th to 6th February 1985 (E. Dvir & H. Shirihai) in Yaffo Port (likely the same individual), and in 11th December 1989 (H. Shirihai) in Ma'agan Michael. The results of the revolutionary molecular phylogeny study of the Little - Audobon's shearwaters species-complex that has recently been conducted by Austin et al. (2004), suggest that Persian Shearwater is clustered with other forms of Audubon's Shearwater of the Indian Ocean into a distinct taxon, P. bailloni. Therefore, it is likely that Persian Shearwater will be treated as a sub-species of this newly proposed species in the near future.
2. Swinhoe's Snipe, Gallinago megala - One, Hula Valley, 28th February to 4th March 1998 (H. Shirihai), considered as a Category A species by Shirihai (1999), but rejected by the IRDC (IRDC Bulletin 3:01). Rejection was based on lack of comprehensive material to exclude other Snipe species.
3. White-cheeked Bulbul, Pycnonotus leucogenys - The IRDC recently reviewed a record of this species from Ein-Akev in the Central Negev on 28th February 2001 (J. Meyrav). Although the identification of this photographed bird was accepted by the committee, the possibility, as first suggested by Shirihai (1996), that individuals occurring in Israel and Jordan could be escapes was re-considered. Since the origin of the Jordanian White-cheeked bulbuls have also been recently questioned (see an "Escape problem" comment regarding this species in the "provisional list of species to be considered by Jordanian Bird Rarity Committee"
http://www.andrewsi.freeserve.co.uk/birding-in-jordan.htm), and because the Israeli birds likely arrived from Jordan, the IRDC decided to assign this species into Category D (possible escape). This change of categorization will apply to all the individuals of this species that occurred in Israel (a total of five birds recorded between 1988 and 1994 and the recent 2001 bird). Following this change, the species will no longer be included in the list of the birds of Israel.
4. Western Orphean Warbler, Sylvia hortensis - This form, now treated as distinct from Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris, was described by Shirihai (1996) as: "Very rare migrant, recorded in spring (ringed) at Eilat (Hadoram Shirihai)". The IRDC decided, however, that there is insufficient data to include this species on the Israeli bird list, as there is no published information or other material available about this form in Israel. The committee welcomes reports regarding the occurrence of this form in the country, preferably of birds examined in the hand.
5. Amethyst Starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster - One, adult male, Eilat, 5th July to 14th August 1983 (H. Shirihai), first considered by Shirihai (1996) to be a possible escapee, but later Shirihai (1999) re-considered the record and placed it in Category A. After further examination, the IRDC re-assigned this record to Category D, as the bird origin could not be safely determined (IRDC Bulletin 2:02).
3) Other changes in the list of the birds of Israel
Changes in taxonomic treatment (Category A species)
1. Audubon's Shearwater, Puffinus lherminieri - Two individuals, apparently belonging to subspecies bailloni, have been recorded in the Gulf of Aqaba off the north beach of Eilat. One on 18th to 21st June 1992 (H. Shirihai, J. Morgan et.al.) and one on 15th May 1999 (B. Granit, R. Lindroos). These birds were formerly regarded as P. atrodorsalis, a new taxon proposed by Shirihai and Sinclair (1994) and Shirihai et al. (1995). The IRDC decided, however, to follow the subsequent opinion of H. Shirihai and to assign these birds into the Indian Ocean's sub-species of Audubon's Shearwater (see also Shirihai 1999). Moreover, the results of the molecular phylogeny study of Austin et al. (2004), suggest that P. atrodorsalis is genetically inseparable from P. lherminieri bailloni. Since the Audubon's Shearwater forms of the Indian Ocean were found by Austin et al. (2004) to form a distinct species, P. bailloni, it is likely that these two birds will be assigned to this newly proposed species in the near future.
2. Yelkouan (Levantine) Shearwater, Puffinus yelkouan - This form, treated in the past as subspecies of Manx Shearwater P. puffinus, is considered now a full species (Sangster et al. 2002).
3. Macqueen's Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii - The species Houbara Bustard was recently split into two distinct species (Knox et al. 2002), the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulate, and the Macqueen's Bustard. All the birds that occur in Israel belong to the species Macqueen's Bustard.
4. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Hippolais pallida - The species Olivaceous Warbler was recently split into two species (Knox et al. 2002), the Western Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais opaca, and the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Breeding and passage birds in Israel were assigned to the species Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.
5. Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sylvia crassirostris- The species Orphean Warbler was recently split into two species the Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis, and the Eastern Orphean Warbler. The birds that occur in Israel belong to the Eastern Orphean Warbler (see above a note regarding the Western Orphean Warbler in Israel).
6. Asian Desert Warbler, Sylvia nana - The species Desert Warbler was split into two species, the African Desert Warbler Sylvia deserti, and the Asian Desert Warbler (Sangster et al. 2004). The birds that inhabit the southern parts of the country during winter belong to the Asian Desert Warbler.
7. Balkan (Eastern Bonelli's) Warbler, Phylloscopus orientalis - The species Bonelli's Warbler was split into two species (Sangster et al. 2002), the (Western) Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli, and the Balkan (Eastern Bonelli's) Warbler. The birds that occur in Israel as common passage migrants and rare breeders belong to Balkan (Eastern Bonelli's) Warbler.
8. Mountain Bunting, Emberiza striolata - The species House Bunting was recently split into two full species, the House Bunting Emberiza sahari, and the Mountain Bunting, the latter found in the Middle East and East Africa.
- Andrews, I. Birding in Jordan website http://www.andrewsi.freeserve.co.uk/birding-in-jordan.htm Accessed: 31 January 2007.
- AERC (Association of European Rarities Committees) website http://aerc.eu/ Accessed: 9 February 2007.
- Austin, J. J., Bretagnolle, V. & Pasquet, E. 2004. A global molecular phylogeny of the small puffinus shearwaters and implications for systematics of the Little-Audubon's shearwater complex. Auk 121:847-864.
- Knox, A.G., Collinson, M., Helbig, A. J., Parkin, D. T. & Sangster, G.. 2002. Taxonomic recommendations for British birds. Ibis 144:707-710.
- IRDC (Israel Rarity and Distribution Committee) Bulletins at the IRDC webpages http://www.israbirding.com/irdc/ Accessed: 31 January 2007.
- Riddington, R. & Reid, J. 2000. Lesser Frigatebird in Israel: New to the Western Palearctic. British Birds 93:22-27.
- Sangster, G., Knox, A. G., Helbig, A. J. & Parkin, D. T. 2002. Taxonomic recommendations for European birds. Ibis 144:153-159.
- Sangster, G., Collinson, M. J., Helbig, A. J., Knox, A. G. & Parkin, D. T. 2004. Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: second report. Ibis 146:153-157.
- Shirihai, H. 1996. The Birds of Israel. Academic Press, London.
- Shirihai, H. 1999. Fifty species new to Israel, 1979-1998: their discovery and documentation, with tips on identification. Sandgrouse 21:45-105.
- Shirihai, H. 2000. The first Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma in Israel and the Western Palearctic. Sandgrouse 22:131-132.
- Shirihai, H. and Sinclair, I. 1994. An unidentified shearwater at Eilat. Birding World 7:274-278.
- Shirihai, H., Sinclair, I. and Colston, P.R. 1995. A new species of Puffinus shearwater from the western Indian Ocean. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 15:75-87.
(Oena capensis) Eilat area, May.05
Little Green Bee-eater
(Merops orientalis) Yotvata, Mar.05
(Calidris canus) Acre, Jan.06