Eilat, in southern Israel, is one of the most exciting birding sites of the western Palearctic region. The only overland bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa acts as a bottle-neck hosting hundreds of millions of migratory birds. Moreover, the birds passing through Eilat, are preparing themselves for the strenuous task of crossing the foodless and hostile Saharan desert.
The first sight you will probably get here in spring is the steady stream of Raptors hovering over the beautiful desert mountains that surround the town of Eilat. Raptor counts conducted here in the spring documented up to 20,000 Steppe Eagles, 50,000 Levant’s Sparrowhawks (almost all the world’s population), 500,000 Steppe Buzzards and 850,000 Honey Buzzards.
The specialties here are the endemic White eyed Gull and White-cheeked, Lesser crested and Bridled Terns.
Looking lower towards the Saltpans and the fresh water reservoirs a birder can enjoy a wide diversity of Ducks, Waders, Gulls, Terns and Flamingo’s. Among them are Collared and Black winged Pratincoles, Greater Sand Plovers, Broad billed Sandpipers, Spoonbills, Storks and a lot more. The north beach, located on the northern edge on the Red sea has a diversity of shearwaters, Gulls from all over Asia and Europe, Terns that show up from the Red Sea, Skuas and Waders. The specialties here are the endemic White eyed Gull and White-cheeked, Lesser crested and Bridled Terns and in a good evening in spring one can find here most of the world’s population of White winged Marsh Terns.
The best selection of birds can be found in the Bird sanctuary just north of town that has all kinds of ever green habitats and wetlands that attracts the migratory birds that have just crossed the desert.
The desert surrounding Eilat is also a fantastic place to get to know the rich desert bird life.
On the rocky mountains the White crowned Wheatears, Scrub Warbler and Sinai Rosefinches can be found and on the higher plains breed the Temmink’s, Thick billed, Bar tailed, hoopoe, Desert and the rare Dunn’s Larks.
Birding in Winter
Winter is quitter but brings rare bird species from the east. The Buff Bellied Pipits and Oriental Skylarks are in the fields, Desert Warblers, Sinai Rosefinches and Striated Scops Owls are scattered around the desert and the wetlands hold 3 species of Kingfishers, Pallas’s Gulls and a lot of more common species.
The visiting birder will find the Bird sanctuary open with birding facilities such as hides, an open to public ringing station (spring and autumn) and a special birders information center that can send them to the most current locations where birds are seen.
The International Birding and Research Center in Eilat is running the Bird Sanctuary.
The Center is involved in nature conservation, research, environmental education, eco-tourism and cross border cooperation that helps the birds migrate. The Israeli Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel runs the Raptor and stopover sites surveys and is involved in nature conservation and eco-tourism activities for birders. Their main international events are the spring migration festival that brings together birders from all over the world in the best time of year and the international birders competition “The Champions of the Flyway” that became one of the most important birding events in the world and raise funds to fight illegal killing of birds.
A diversity of more than 480 species of birds where recorded in the Eilat area. It is probably the highest you get with bird diversity in the western Palearctic region.