Merops apiaster (Linnaeus 1758) Bee-Eater
Hebrew name: שרקרק מצוי, shrakrak matzuy
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: VU (A1acd,C1) – Vulnerable
Distribution area: Common passage migrant and fairly common summer breeder in the entire Mediterranean and steppe region in Israel, in the northern Negev (south to Sede Boqer) and in the Jordan Valley (south to Jericho). Its population has decreased drastically (over 30%) in the northern valleys, the Coastal Plain, Judea, Samaria and the lowlands (Dovrat, Shirihai, pers. comm.). The species is endangered in the Coastal Plain (down from circa 300 pairs in the 1980s to a few dozen today). There seems to be no change in the status of Jordan Valley, Golan Heights and northern Negev bee-eater populations (Shohat, Boldo, pers. comm.). In the Negev the species distribution area has expanded, spreading south as far as Sede Boqer (Shohat, Tsurim, Sapir, pers. comm.).
Historic distribution: Once bred in all parts of its present distribution area except for the latest expansion into southern Israel. Was a very common summer visitor throughout its distribution area.
Typical Habitat: Breeds in the Mediterranean and steppe regions. Its typical habitat is open spaces (e.g. grazing fields), broad wadis, hills and mountains with scattered trees. Nests in earth walls where it digs a nesting hole.
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Habitat modification – the species was deleteriously affected by the destruction of open spaces in the Mediterranean region.
2. Poisoning – bee-eaters often nest near agricultural fields and suffer secondary poisoning from insecticides.
3. Activities by bee-growers to destroy nesting colonies.
Population Size: Between 2000 and 3000 pairs, but up to date information is lacking.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The population has decreased substantially during the last two decades (by approximately 30 percent).
Isolation Between Subpopulations: Non-existent.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Protecting habitats, particularly in Mediterranean shrublands, sand and caliche banks in the Coastal Plain.
2. Limiting the use of insecticides that cause secondary poisoning.