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Northern Bald Ibises return

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The rarest birds in the Middle East are returning to their breeding grounds, having provided data about their migration route and wintering site which will help in the development of plans to protect them outside their breeding season. But the mystery of where young, non-breeding birds go in winter remains.

The re-appearance of one Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita in Palmyra, Syria, with two others close behind, has been heralded as a success for the nine-month satellite tracking project that began when scientists tagged three adult birds last summer.

The trio, Sultan, Salam and Zenobia, the latter named after Palmyra’s third-century warrior queen, flew more than 3,800 miles across seven countries, and spent the winter in the Ethiopian highlands 50 miles from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.The birds’ return route was one of the factors that surprised scientists most. They flew west rather than east of the Red Sea, crossing from Sudan to Saudi Arabia at the Sea’s widest point of about 180 miles. However, there has so far been no sign of the nine younger birds which left the Syrian breeding colony at the same time as the adults, in July last year. Lubomir Peske, who put the tags on Sultan, Salam and Zenobia, will return to the colony this spring in the hope of tagging a young ibis.

Ibrahim Khader, Head of BirdLife Middle East, said: The birds’ migration remains perilous and it is our job to make that journey safer. If we can do that, this population will have a much better chance of survival. Without this project, the northern bald ibis would have been consigned to history and hieroglyphics.

4th July 2014