Researchers: Golden eagle, Bonelli's eagle, facing imminent extinction in Israel

"Over the past century, there has been a dramatic decline in various kinds of birds of prey in Israel," experts say.

Golden eagle. (photo credit: YOAV PERLMAN)
Golden eagle.
(photo credit: YOAV PERLMAN)
Two birds of prey in Israel, the golden eagle and Bonelli’s eagle, have become so endangered that ornithologists fear their potential extinction, the Society for the Protection of Nature warned on Wednesday.
Unless decisive measures are taken, they will soon become extinct and thereby join the ranks of many other birds of prey that were once common in Israel, according to new research conducted by ornithologist Asaf Mayrose and Ohad Hatzofe, an avian ecologist for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The researchers will be presenting their findings on the matter at the 36th Ornithology Seminar, hosted by SPNI and Tel Aviv University on Monday.
“Over the past century, there has been a dramatic decline in various kinds of birds of prey in Israel,” Hatzofe and Mayrose said in a joint statement.
Already, they explained, 10 eagle species have dwindled to extinction in Israel. The process was originally faster in Israel’s Mediterranean region than in its desert area, the researchers said. There, birds were susceptible to injuries from power line electrocutions, poisonings and destructions of natural habitats.
Many of the birds in the country’s North already were eliminated by the 1950s and 1960s.
“This situation has changed drastically in the last three decades,” Hatzofe and Mayrose said. “At the same time, as a sharp increase in human population and quality of life occurred, interference and pressures on desert animals also grew.”
The golden eagle and Bonelli’s eagle are two species that have become particularly vulnerable to this change.
While in the 1980s, about 40 pairs of golden eagles and 20 pairs of Bonelli’s eagles were nesting in the South, today fewer than 10 pairs of each species remains, Hatzofe and Mayrose warned. The birds sustained a variety of damages to their nesting environments, caused by interference from travelers, helicopter rescues of hikers and nest invasions by other birds. In addition, they have faced electrocution, hunters and poisoning episodes, the researchers explained.
Hatzofe and Mayrose said, “Following these findings, we are proposing to raise the level of risk of the two eagles from ‘endangered’ to ‘critically endangered.’”