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An invasion of Pale Rock Sparrows (Carpospiza brachydactyla), May/06

The breeding range of Pale Rock Sparrow (AKA Hill Sparrow) in the western Palearctic is limited to N Israel, Lebanon, SE Turkey, Armenia and parts of the Arabian peninsula (Snow D. et al. 1998). During the migration period, it may also occur in other parts of the Middle-east.

In Israel, Pale Rock Sparrow is a rare autumn and a rare to common spring passage migrant, particularly through eastern parts, and a scarce breeding summer visitor on Mt. Hermon, in altitudes of 1,250-1,800m. In the early 20th century, it also occasinally bred at the Jordan valley (Aharoni, 1942).

This year, flocks of hundreds invaded southern Israel deserts, possibly induced by very late rainfalls in these regions.
Starting from May 2nd, singletons to hundreds were noted at the Arava, Negev and northern Dead Sea, many of which displayed breeding behaviors.
On May 7th, a pair was observed building a nest at Halukim ridge, Sde-Boqer area (A. Tsairi).

A similarly impressive influx was at 1988, when hundreds invaded southern and eastern parts of the country (Shirihai, 1996). Contrary to this year, the 88’ and other smaller invasion occurred during March-April, and left no evidence of breeding.
Nevertheless, in the year 2000, flocks of several hundreds reached eastern Samaria and Judean hills at the end of April, and subsequently bred. Definite signs of breeding were first found near Kohav HaShahar in early June, and included chicks being fed by adults (A. Mayrose, P .Griffin et al.). This was the first breeding recorded outside the Hermon, since the days of Aharoni.

This year’s late invasion of Pale Rock Sparrow to S Israel corresponds with the almost annual arrival of the breeding population to the Hermon, and with the beginning of their breeding cycle. This may result in breeding taking place in these areas during the following months.

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