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Haliaeetus albicilla

warning Critically Endangered
CR (D1)

Contributed: Yifat Artzi

The White-tailed Sea-eagle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) because of its extremely small population size, which is less than 50 adult individuals. In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Regionally Extinct (RE). The improvement in the species threat category reflects the fact that it has returned to breed in Israel in recent years as a result of the reintroduction project (Hatsofe et al. 2002). The first successful fledging of a White-tailed Sea-eagle occurred in 2015 at the Hula Nature Reserve.
CR Current Regional Assessment | RE Previous Regional Assessment | LC World Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Humid Lowlands
Presence In Israel Winter Visitor, Resident
Nesting In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Resident
Zoography Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Formations Plains & Valleys, Swamps, Wetlands, Freshwater Bodies
Vegetation Densities Medium, High
Nest Locations Tree
Diet Types Carrion, Fish
Foraging Grounds Water, Ground
Body Sizes Large (over 1000g)
Threat Factors Powerline Interactions, Pesticide Poisoning, Lead Poisoning, Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The White-tailed Sea-eagle is a large heavy bird of prey, the largest in Israel that is not a scavenger. It has dark brown plumage, a grey head, a large yellow beak and a short wedge-shaped tail. Inhabits wetlands, such as lakes, seashores, pools and reservoirs. Feeds mainly on fish that it catches close to the water surface from shallow dives, as well as on dead fish, waterbirds and small mammals.

Two pairs of White-tailed Sea-eagles nested in the Hula Valley and the Mt. Gilboa slopes until 1957, when breeding in Israel ceased (Paz 1986, Shirihai 1996). About 50 birds have been released from the captive breeding nucleus at the Carmel Hai Bar since 1991, some of which survived for a few years following release and one pair has been breeding successfully in the Hula Reserve since 2015. In addition, immature birds from Eastern European populations appear sporadically in Israel during migration and winter. They are seen mainly in the southern Golan Heights, Northern Valleys and the Judean Lowlands.

Valleys and moist, fertile flatlands with water bodies and tall trees. Usually nests on trees.

A number of White-tailed Sea-eagle pairs bred in Israel until the mid-20th century. Breeding ceased in the wake of the Hula Lake drainage and excessive use of agricultural pesticides. The juvenile sea eagles released in recent decades from the breeding nucleus are harmed mainly by electrocution, pesticide poisoning, as well as by hunting and trapping, particularly when they wander outside Israel’s borders.

The White-tailed Sea-eagle became extinct as a breeder in the 1950s. Since 1991 it is being reintroduced to nature. In recent years there is one pair nesting in the Hula Reserve every year, while at the same time immature birds continue to be released from the breeding nucleus.

The White-tailed Sea-eagle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) because of the extremely small size of its breeding population in Israel. In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Regionally Extinct (RE). The improvement in its threat category reflects the improvement in the population, which has returned to breed in Israel after a long interval, as a result of the reintroduction project.

The reintroduction project should be continued until the goal of five breeding pairs throughout the valleys in northern Israel is accomplished (Hatsofe & Mayrose 2015, Master Plan for Raptor Conservation in Israel).

  • הצופה, א., קפלן, א. ואורון, ט. 2002. השבת העיטמים לבני זנב לטבע בישראל. העזניה 31, הוצאת טבע הדברים והחברה להגנת הטבע.
  • סלע, י. 1975. סקר העופות הדורסים 1970–1975. אוניברסיטת תל-אביב: המכון לחקר שמירת הטבע.
  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.
  • Mendelssohn, H. 1972. The impact of pesticides on bird life in Israel. ICBP 11:75-104.
  • Shirihai, H., 1996. The Birds of Israel. Academic Press, London.
  • Symes, A. 2013. Species generation lengths. Unpublished, BirdLife International.
  • Species page at Birdlife International
Contributed: Yifat Artzi

Current Occupancy Map

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel in the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and nesting density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values as calculated from observation records and expert opinions.

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Breeding density values are based mainly on the book Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Occupancy difference 1990-2020

A map that expresses differences in the breeding distribution between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative value - species previously present but is currently absent, positive value - species has not been recorded previously and is currently present, zero - no change in occupancy.

Relative abundance difference 1990-2020

A map that reflects the changes in the relative abundance of the species between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative values - decline in abundance, positive values - increase in abundance, zero - no change in abundance.

Red number

IUCN category

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% of protected sites

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