The Arabian Warbler (Sylvia Leucomelaena)

This small songbird is from the Sylviidae species or Passerines. True to its name, it is part of the landscape of Acacias and can be seen throughout the Arava. It lives in pairs all year round. The bird couple sleeps together, touching one another and cleaning and arranging each other’s feathers.

In the past few years there has been a large decrease in the Arabian Warbler due to loss of its habitat, and it is currently defined in severe danger of extinction. Today we know of less than ten couples nesting throughout the Arava, three or four of which are in the Shizaf Reserve.


The Arabian Warbler

The Green Bee-Eater  (Merops Orientalis)

This small, quick and colorful bird is a common site in the Arava. It receives its name (in Hebrew) due to the short whistle it emits. In English it is called the Green Bee-Eater and this is a perfect description. It is an expert at eating flying insects like bees and dragonflies, and one can often see it catching its prey in flight and then smashing the insect’s head on a branch. The bird nests in small tunnels which it digs in the river banks and the sand hills.


The Green Bee-Eater

The Arabian Babbler  (Turdoides Squamiseps)

The Arabian Babbler is a songbird that belongs to the Timiliidae family. It received its name due to its long tail that it uses for navigating in the bushes and when gathering food on the ground. They live in social groups that vary in size from 2-20 individuals. Each one in the group has a clear social status. The whole group makes one nest and all of the members care for the fledglings despite the fact that the dominant male and female are the main reproducers.

This breed has been under comprehensive research for some 40 years. The study is being carried out in the Shizaf Nature Reserve by Professor Amotz Zehavi and from this study he developed the 'Handicap Principle' – a groundbreaking theory, known worldwide, regarding communication among living creatures. The Arabian Babblers in the Shizaf Reserve all have colored ID rings and are familiar with the presence of humans, thus they can be watched from very close range and one can learn about their unique life style.


The Arabian Babbler

The Great Grey Shrike (Lanius Excubitor)

The Great Grey Shrike is a carnivorous songbird. It eats insects, small birds, reptiles and small mammals. In order to deal with its prey and dissect it (it is not a raptor and does not have claws) it impales it on the thorns of bushes, trees, branches or even barbed wire. The Great Grey Shrike can be found from the Dead Sea Rift and all the way to the Golan Heights.

In the past few years these birds have been studied at the Shizaf Nature Reserve in the Arava. During this study they were marked with colored ID rings and have become familiar to the presence of humans, thus the researchers were able to learn about their methods of impaling and their nesting behavior, while maintaining very close presence to the birds.


The Great Grey Shrike

The Blackstart (Cercomela Melanura)

The Blackstart is a small desert bird from the Turdidae family, common in the Arava and the Negev. Its name was received due to its black tail, which it spreads and moves constantly.

It builds its nest in a rock crevice and usually places small stones in the entranceway. The reason is not clear, but it may be that these serve as a warning against predators – a snake approaching the nest and rubbing against the stones will make a noise enabling the bird to flee before the snake arrives.

One can observe Blackstarts that have ID rings in the Shizaf Reserve, they are familiar to the presence of humans.


The Blackstart

The Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)

The Desert Lark is a small songbird from the Alaudidae family. This is the most common lark in the desert regions of Israel. Larks usually live in pairs and they nest in a small indentation in the ground, near a bush or in small niches in a rock. The Desert Lark seeks out its food on the ground and its color provides good camouflage. Its diet consists mainly of seeds, but it can also consume insects.

One can observe Desert Larks that have ID rings in the Shizaf reserve, they are familiar to the presence of humans.


The Desert Lark

The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl (Bubo Ascalaphus)

The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl is a large nocturnal bird of prey that lives in the Arava and the desert. It is smaller than its relative, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, which lives in the north. It has large, yellow eyes that greatly enhance its night vision, and a very well-developed sense of hearing. It is known for its silent mode of flight, which enables it to, suddenly swoop, down on its prey. This silent flight is achieved by a soft plumage covering its body and the 'comb' structure  located on the ends of the pinion feathers that absorb noise. Its diet is quite varied and includes birds, lizards, mammals, and arthropods. The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl is considered a rare nocturnal bird of prey and birdwatchers from all over the world come to the Arava to catch a glimpse of it.


The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl

The Griffon vulture (Gyps Fulvus)

 The Griffon Vulture is considered to be one of the largest and most impressive birds of prey in Israel. It is smaller than its relatives, the Lappet-Faced Vulture and the Bearded Vulture, which unfortunately have become extinct in the Negev due to loss of habitat and environmental changes. The wingspan of the vulture can reach 260 cm. and its weight can reach 8 kilogram. As opposed to the eagle, the hawk, and the falcon which devour live prey, the vulture only feeds on carcasses and acts as nature’s 'sanitation workers'. The vulture’s keen sense of sight enables it to spot the carcass of a calf from a distance of 8 kilometers, and when it spots the carcass, it dives toward it at a speed of 150 km/hr. Other vultures that see a vulture diving toward a carcass follow suit and, hence, we can see a gathering of tens of vultures around a carcass. The vulture is able to travel a distance of over 500 kilometers in one day.

The vulture is in severe danger of extinction due to poisoning, hunting and electrocution, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are making great efforts to preserve and establish the existing population.


The Griffon vulture