Aquila heliaca (Savigny 1809) Imperial Eagle
Hebrew name: עיט שמש, eit shemesh
Global Threat: VU (C2a) – Vulnerable
Regional Threat: Globally endangered winter visitor and passage migrant.
Distribution area: Rare winter visitor and passage migrant in the Mediterranean and steppe regions in Israel, particularly in the Western Negev.
Historic distribution: Was a common winter visitor and passage migrant until the mid-20th century in the Mediterranean and steppe regions in Israel.
Typical Habitat: Winters in open fields with trees and perches, on mountains and cliffs with Mediterranean vegetation and grassy clearings.
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Poisoning – imperial eagles were decimated by secondary poisoning (thallium sulphate used against voles in the Northern Valleys) in the 1950s, and in the large-scale poisonings in the Hula Valley in the 1960s and 1970s by Isodrine (organochlorine pesticide). Eastern European breeding populations suffer from the same problem.
Population Size: Circa 70 imperial eagles winter in Israel. 68 were counted in winter 1996/97 and 73 in winter 1997/98 (Shirihai & Alon 2000, unpublished).
Fluctuations in Population Size: For the past two decades the size of the wintering population has been stable.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Improving regulation of pesticide use.
2. Continued insulation of electrical installations to prevent bird electrocution.