Nature Authority Succeeds in Breeding Rare Bird of Prey

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has chalked up a success of international proportions in breeding one of the rarest birds of prey - the hawk-eagle. The hawk-eagles being bred in Israel are the only ones in the world that regularly reproduce on an annual basis.

Meanwhile the fate of another rare bird, the lappet-faced vulture, which is no longer found in the wild in Israel, does not look bright.

Ecologist Ohad Hatzofe of the Parks Authority published a summary of efforts over the past year to breed rare birds of prey under the supervision of the authority's Hai Bar nature reserve outside of Haifa and with the help of zoos around the country. Sixteen birds representing seven species, including vultures, have been bred for release during 2009 or for release in the near future.

Success is not guaranteed even after the birds are released, as they are subject to disease and other perils, including death from viper snakes. The lappet-faced vulture, which became extinct in the wild in Israel many years ago, has seen its numbers dwindle in captivity as well. The embryo in a fertilized egg laid by one of the species over the past year at the Tel Aviv University zoo died before hatching, leaving just one male and four females left captive in Israel, according to the report.

"It's only a matter of time," Hatzofe wrote in the report, "before they, too, die, leaving no lappet-faced vultures in Israel, either in captivity or in the wild."

The success, by contrast, of the efforts to breed the hawk-eagle have resulted in five of the birds being released into the wild in the past year. Two were placed in a nest in the Nahal Harduf area of the Judean Desert, replacing two infertile eggs in the nest belonging to a pair of vultures that has failed to reproduce for 12 years.

There has also been relative success in breeding the Egyptian vulture, which is now a regular presence in Nahal Galim (in the Carmel area outside Haifa) for the first time in 60 years.