The 3rd Hula Valley Bird Festival

10th – 17th November 2013

By Martin G

Tomorrow morning I head off to visit the  Israel with Sunday heralding the start of the 3rd Hula Valley Bird Festival. Here’s a reblog of  just one of the many highlights seen last November. What this year?

Asian Black-shouldered Kite

Elanus caeruleus vociferus

 ‘Evil Red Eyes’ typed into the Google search engine brings up these images. Just like the piercing ruby eyes of the Black-shouldered Kite. Those eyes, deep-set in black furrows, on the side of triangular Owl-like head, form part of the super charismatic appeal of these birds. Add an apparent Asian (not European origin) of vagrant turned breeder, arriving in the rescued Hula Valley (a whole David versus Goliath conservation story there) and you will meet this bird:

asian black shouldered kiteapparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. Agamon Park, photographed during the 2nd Hula Bird Festival, November 2012. M Garner. This is the adult male from the first breeding pair in Israel (and the Western Palearctic?)

A dream start. The first Hula Bird Festival in Nov. 2011 ushered in another first. A pair of Black-shouldered Kites an otherwise extreme rarity here was found breeding in the Agamon Park. Thankfully the same pair were still present and breeding like proverbial rabbits. Already at 3 consecutive broods- apparently mating and nest building for round two while still feeding young from round one. In terms of the Western Palearctic region, the Black-shouldered Kite is represented by disjunct populations of the nominate formcaeruleus. Some of these breed as near to Israel as Egypt, so surely a likely source of colonisation? In fact the Israeli birds appear to be the Asian taxon vociferus, whose normal range runs from Pakistan east into Asia. Pakistan is about as far away from Israel to the east, as Spain is, to the west.

asian black shouldered kite 3Normally perched up, giving fine ‘scope views, the adult male gave one close fly-by.

asian black shouldered kite 6apparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. One difference between nominate caeruleus and vociferus- well seen here, appears to be the dark shadow of grey over the secondaries. Not as black as the underside of the primaries, but the black appears to ‘bleed’ from inner primaries to adjacent secondaries and overall the grey secondaries contrast obviously with white underwing coverts. The secondaries are normally nearly white/just slightly grey in nominate birds, lacking the obvious contrast. Light plays a big role in assessing this properly. Suppose there might be other subtle differences, to be explored!

So not just a first for Israel but first for the Western Palearctic ( I think), the  breeding of vociferus- Asian Black-shouldered Kite.

asian black shouldered kite 5

asian black shouldered kite 4apparent Asian Black shouldered Kite- ssp. vociferus. Agamon Park, during the 2nd Hula Bird Festival, November 2012. M Garner.

Really benefited hanging out with learning about this stuff from the pioneers: Yoav Perlman, Nadav Israeli, Jonathan Merav and Dan Alon. More on the spread of the kites (since  2011- some 5 pairs have been found in Israel e.gsee Yoav’s blog and see conservation in the Hula ,where more should be written Dan’s herculean work to get this all started.

Video capturing some of the first breeding and taken during the 1st Hula Bird Festival in Nov.2012 by Mark Andrews.

526074_524421854235687_243778855_nSome of the folk on the 2nd Hula Bird Festival enjoying views of Black-shouldered Kite in the Agamon Park.

4 thoughts on “The 3rd Hula Valley Bird Festival

  1. Sam Bosanquet

    Jos Stratford’s trip report on birding in Iran (from 2010 I think) suggests there has been a significant increase in Black-shouldered Kite there in the last decade, which (assuming they are vociferus) would tie in with arrival in Israel.

  2. Sam Bosanquet

    to be more precise “Soon it would be time to head back to my hotel for some well-deserved rest, the previous night essentually a non-event on planes and taxi dashes, but before that the first big bonus of the trip – atop a tree just beyond the pools, a pair of Black-winged Kites. This species was first recorded in Iran in 1998, but since then has begun to rapidly colonise the south of the country, an additional 17 records occurring up to the end of 2010″ from


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