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The northern bald ibis is the rarest bird in the Middle East. We have been tracking four of them via satellite transmitters – two as they left Syria for the winter and two juveniles released from the semi-wild population in Turkey. Find out what happened on their journeys here with us. Watch this space for further news on the exciting next steps for this important work!

Who's who

Odeinat is an adult male, the father of two fledged juveniles this year - he and his untagged partner Zenobia left on the same day as one of their offspring.

Salama is an adult female - her partner didn't return from migration in 2010, but she continues to migrate and spent the breeding season at the nesting cliff in 2011.

Juv 1 and Juv 2 are the two tagged Birecik juveniles released July 2011 from Birecik with two more. Amina (female) and Ishtar (male) were 2010 youngsters from Birecik, Turkey.which were released in Syria after a brief settling period. This is the first time such a release had been tried and they successfully migrated to Southern Saudi Arabia, but sadly it appears they didnt survive.

Ameer hatched in the wild in 2010 in Syria and is the offspring of Odeinat and untagged Zenobia - who sadly died after being found in a very weak condition two weeks after leaving Syria in southern Saudi Arabia. We await results of the autopsy.

We get new locations for at least one of the birds most days, so you can watch the story unfold...

About the project

The Syrian population of northern bald ibises is teetering on the edge of oblivion. In fact, the whole species is Critically Endangered - one step away from extinction. In 2002, the Syrian population stood at seven birds. But despite extensive protection in Syria, numbers are down to three.

But the efforts continue - the Turkish Government has donated ibises to join the Syrian colony, two of which were released in 2010. In 2011, four more juveniles were released, this time directly from Birecik, and following earlier trials, we will learn where they go, and if they can survive, when and whether they return to the colony site. Perhaps they will visit the Syrian colony?

You can follow their progress on this map.

We've already found out that the adult ibises travel to Ethiopia for the winter, but we're not totally sure where the youngsters go. A team of biologists is also attempting to find the birds on the ground, to record details of their habitat and make sure that no illegal hunting takes place.

Hunting and other pressures away from the breeding grounds seems to have been the cause of decline. So satellite tracking the birds is a vital tool for learning how to help the northern bald ibis - the only other wild population is 100 pairs in Morocco.

This international operation couldn't happen without with conservationists, governments, researchers, funders and individuals all working together.

  • Turkish government

Releasing the birds

The video shows 2010 supplementation in Syria and the preparation of the pre-release aviary, the three wild adult Syrian birds in the field, then the newly-released youngsters out of the aviary. Some of the Turkish adults are to be kept for breeding in the aviary. The juveniles join Salama, one of the wild Syrian adults, at the lake and then they all fly back to the aviary area. Video kindly provided by Lubomir Peske.

In 2011, four juvenile semi-wild birds were released directly from Birecik, as a trial to see whether they will migrate, and if they survive, will they return to the colony next spring. Two of the four are satellite tagged.

Find out more

Conservation of the Northern Bald Ibis in Syria and the Middle East

A relict population of three pairs of Northern Bald Ibis was discovered near Palmyra, Syria in 2002. This migratory colony remains on the brink of extinction despite intensive protection work. RSPB’s programme in Syria also encompasses work on Sociable Lapwing and building conservation capacity of Government and NGOs. More...

Habitat selection by Northern Bald Ibis on their Syrian breeding grounds

There are only a handful of northern bald ibises left breeding in Syria. They differ from the main population in Morocco because they migrate to the Arabian peninsular and Ethiopia for the winter. They occupy an area of desert-like steppe in south central Syria but only make use of very specific sites to feed in from year to year when so much suitable-looking habitat appears to be available to them. We investigated whether these patches have special characteristics that cause them to be favoured by the birds. More...

Habitat selection by Northern Bald Ibis on their Syrian breeding grounds

The landscape ecology of the northern bald ibis

Around half of the world population of the northern bald ibis is found in the Souss-Massa National Park in southern Morocco. Here, the RSPB has been working with SEO, the Spanish BirdLife partner, and the Moroccan Department of Eaux et Fôrets to develop and implement a park management plan. More...

The landscape ecology of the northern bald ibis