Counting on the Public to Count the Birds

Counting birds Photo Marwa Kaffora SPNI

Since 2006, a nationwide Birds Count has taken place across Israel from mid-January to mid –February. It is a large scale voluntary civil science report, coordinated by SPNI and carried out by the public in collaboration with the Israeli Center for Yard Birds.

These reports enable important monitoring of invasive species on a national and regional scale, and identify changes and trends in the population of birds that inhabitant urban area.


Counting birds at Samih al-Quasim school Photo Marwa Kaffora SPNI

A heightened awareness among the public about the issue of invasive species – partly due to SPNI's educational work throughout the country – has led to an increase of 28% in reports submitted by the public in 2016 as compared to the previous year. This year, we received over 700 reports including from 137 schools and 62 kindergartens. In total 40,150 birds were counted from 84 different species.

SPNI’s Eco-Community Center staff helped the young children observe and count the birds, found in the school’s court yard and its surroundings, using binoculars and photos of common Israeli birds.

The kids’ enjoyment and enthusiasm was evident, as they successfully identified more than 10 species of birds, such as the laughing dove, the hooded crow, the house sparrow, the white-spectacled bulbul and the pied wagtail.

The overall survey results show that the hooded crow kept its title as the  most commonly spotted bird in Israel; with the house sparrow coming in second, and the feral pigeon and laughing dove tying for third place.

As for invasive species - at the top of the list, preserving their rank from previous years is the common myna and the rose-ringed parakeet.

Myna. Photo Baruch Elert

Among the questions raised as a result of this civil science survey is whether invasive species’ growth will continue, and whether they will become a threat to the local bird populations such as the house sparrow and the pied wagtail.

Since 2006 we have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of myna birds spotted; in 2016 it was spotted in 42% of the reports, while in 2006 it was spotted in only 6%. The rose-ringed parakeet, which is especially harmful to crops such as sunflower, pecan nuts and other fruits, has also spread quickly, and is mentioned in 46% of reports this year, while in     2006 it was only mentioned in 16% of them.