Northern bald ibis in Syria
The map shows approximate locations derived from the ARGOS satellite data so that you too can monitor their progress. We have deliberately altered the actual locations for the sake of their protection. The map is updated whenever we receive data from the satellites.

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Starting point

نقره لتكبير أو تصغير الصورة ونقرتين لعرض الصورة في صفحة مستقلة بحجمها الطبيعي

Until recently, the only known surviving wild population of northern bald ibises was in Morocco. Then in 2002, a tiny population was found in the Syrian desert. This population is particularly important as it is migratory, unlike the Moroccan birds.

In mid July, after breeding, these birds leave the colony near Palmyra for an unknown destination. Old records exist of presumed migrants and wintering birds in countries bordering the Red Sea but no one really knows where these birds spend the winter. It may well be crucial for the survival of this population to discover the migration route and wintering grounds in order to implement conservation actions there.

The RSPB has been working with Birdlife Middle East, the Government of Syria and a number of other scientists, and with funding also from the National Geographic Society and Africa Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, in order to attach satellite transmitters to these birds so that we can find out where they go.

No one really knows where the birds spend the winterThe team managed to catch two males (named Salam and Sultan) and a female (named Zenobia after the Palmyran queen) near their breeding colony in Syria in June 2006 and attached transmitters to all three. The transmitters are very small and lightweight and mounted on the lower back of the bird, held in place by loops around the top of the legs. They are carefully designed to avoid any effect on the birds carrying them. We are now watching to see where these birds fly to.

The ibises are on the move
Chris Bowden has spent many years working on the northern bald ibises in Morocco and the Middle East for the RSPB: ‘Being able to find out where the ibises spend winter is something I feared we might never know for sure.

‘Old records from Eritrea and Ethiopia meant that those countries were possibilities, and it came as something of a surprise that our tagged birds spent over three weeks in Yemen (where there were also a few records in the 1980s). Just when we began to think they might stay there, they shot across the Red Sea to central Ethiopia!

‘Whether they will settle in an area remains to be seen - I rather hope they do, so that conservation efforts can focus on wherever that may be.’

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