The magnitude and timing of migration by soaring raptors, pelicans and storks over Israel

Yossi Leshem*, Yoram Yom-Tov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The magnitude and timing of the autumn and spring migrations of 35 species of medium-and large-sized raptors, White Pelicans Pelicanus onocrotalus and White Storks Ciconia ciconia were studied in Israel. Observations were carried out from the ground by a line of observers covering most of the width of Israel across the line of migration and by radar. There was a high correlation between the counts obtained by ground observers and by radar. On average, about half a million raptors (mainly Lesser Spotted Eagles Aquila pomarina, Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus and Levant Sparrowhawks Accipiter brevipes), 250,000 White Storks and 70,000 White Pelicans passed during autumn, and about a million raptors (mainly Honey Buzzards, Steppe Buzzards Buteo vulpinus, Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis and Black Kites Milvus migrans) and 450,000 White Storks passed during spring. Peak numbers were higher - over a million raptors and half a million White Storks. There was high interyear variation in the number of migrants recorded during the study, probably caused by weather and counting efforts. For some species, the whole world (Lesser Spotted Eagle and Levant Sparrowhawk) or Palaearctic (White Pelican) population passes over Israel during migration, allowing an estimate of the world populations of these species. Mean dates of arrival of most raptors are highly predictable, with confidence limits ranging between 1.5 and 5.5 days. The migration periods of White Storks and White Pelicans are longer and their mean day of appearance is less predictable (confidence limits range from 4.2 to 13.8 days). During autumn, 90% of the migrating populations of flocking species, such as Levant Sparrowhawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus, pass within 13, 15, 16 and 18 days, respectively, while nonflocking species, such as Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus and Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, generally take twice as long to pass. Similar passage periods were recorded in spring. For most species, the autumn migration period was longer than the spring migration period, probably because in autumn adults move before the young birds. Three factors affected the timing and spread of the migration wave: age at first breeding, diet and size of the breeding area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-203
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1996


Dive into the research topics of 'The magnitude and timing of migration by soaring raptors, pelicans and storks over Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this