Haliaeetus albicilla (Linnaeus 1758) White-Tailed Eagle
Hebrew name: עיטם לבן-זנב, eitam levan-zanav
Global Threat: NT – Near Threatened (Statterfield & Capper 2000)
Regional Threat: RE (as breeder) – Regionally Extinct
Distribution area: Very rare winter visitor and passage migrant in northern and central Israel. Mainly young birds are seen (up to 7 individuals throughout the country in winter 1998/9). Sixteen white-tailed eagles from a breeding nucleus were released in the Hula and Bet She’an valleys, but only one pair breeds in the Hula Nature Reserve, so far unsuccessfully (Hatsofe, pers. comm.).
Historic distribution: Two pairs bred in the Hula Valley and the Mt. Gilboa slopes until 1957 (Paz 1986; Shirihai 1996).
Typical Habitat: Moist fields and flatlands with water bodies and tall trees in the Mediterranean region in Israel. Nests on trees or cliffs.
Major Extinction Factors:
1. Poisoning – a number of birds were hurt by poisoning during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (Mendelssohn 1972).
2. Habitat modification – the breeding population disappeared along with swamp drainage and destruction of wetlands.
3. Electrocution and hunting.
Period During Which Species Became Extinct: 1950s.
Population Size: Six white-tailed eagles survived after being released from the breeding nucleus. This population is still very small and does not breed.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The white-tailed eagle has once again become a resident bird in Israel as a result of the restoration project.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: The Israeli breeding population is the southernmost limit of the species distribution area. The nearest populations breed in northern Iran and southwest Turkey (Cramp & Simmons 1980).
Species Rehabilitation Possibility: The restoration project is underway. Although the Hula Valley is the site where the project has the best chance of success, the Hula Reserve in itself is not large enough to satisfy the needs of all the white-tailed eagles. Proper management, such as planting single trees and expanding reed beds, may make Lake Agmon, or the fishponds near the reserve, a suitable habitat for the eagles.