Merops persicus (Pallas 1773) Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater
Hebrew name: שרקרק ירוק, shrakrak yarok
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: VU (B1,C2a,D1+2) – Vulnerable
Distribution area: Rare passage migrant. Rare breeder along the Jordan Valley, between the Bet She’an Valley and the southern Dead Sea. Probably resident in the southern Jordan Valley (Nisim, pers. comm.), but the number of pairs is not known. Between 10 and 20 pairs nest in the Ne’ot HaKikar area (Shirihai, pers. comm.) and a few pairs in the Bet She’an Valley (Ganz, pers.comm.).
Historic distribution: Until the 1950s was a common breeder, in colonies with dozens of pairs in the Jordan Valley, Bet She’an Valley, Hula Valley, Golan Heights and Zevulun Valley (Inbar 1975; Paz 1986; Shirihai 1996). Disappeared from most of these areas during the 1960s, except for a few pairs in the Jordan and Bet She’an valleys. There was some recuperation in the 1970s and 1980s, and 50-100 pairs bred in the Jordan Valley between Jericho and Bet She’an, circa 10 pairs in the southern Golan Heights and one pair in Ne’ot HaKikar (Shirihai 1996).
Typical Habitat: Open spaces, with low vegetation composed of scattered trees and shrubs, usually near water. Formerly nested in the Mediterranean, steppe and desert regions, but today breeds only in the steppe and desert region.
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Poisoning – birds in nesting colonies adjacent to agricultural fields were harmed by insecticides.
2. Habitat modification – the species was deleteriously affected by the conversion of shrublands and uncultivated areas to agriculture.
Population Size: Tens of pairs, but up to date information is lacking.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The Israeli population is small, but apparently stable, for the last two decades. Information is lacking from the southern Jordan Valley.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: The Israeli population is hundred of kilometers away from the larger populations in Iraq and Syria.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Preserving open spaces in the Jordan Valley.
2. Limiting the use of insecticides that cause secondary poisoning.