2nd Time Ever: Common Firecrest Spotted in Israel

Monday, December 20, 2021

Translated from the original Hebrew article by Noa Fisher on Ynet, December 13, 2021

KKL-JNF ornithologists spotted this small bird in Birya Forest, causing great excitement among enthusiasts. The common firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) was first seen in Israel 10 years ago, but has not reappeared until now.
KKL-JNF ornithologists Yehudit and Eitan Kaufman paid a visit last week to the cedar grove in Birya Forest, where rare goldcrests (Regulus regulus) can be observed regularly in wintertime.
When they examined the photographs Eitan had taken, they were astonished to discover that, apart from goldcrests, a common firecrest was also visible. This is only the second time that this small bird has been observed in Israel. It was first spotted ten years ago in a KKL-JNF woodland near Mount Baron in the Golan Heights.
This latest rare sighting has aroused great excitement among Israeli ornithologists, many of whom took advantage of the fine weather to visit Birya Forest over the weekend.
The common firecrest nests in the forests of Central Europe, and in winter it generally makes its way to Turkey, Greece, southern Italy or North Africa. Israel, however, does not form part of its normal area of distribution. Only 9 cm. or less in length and weighing only 7-8 grams, this is the smallest bird to visit Israel.
Indeed, the common firecrest is one of the smallest birds found anywhere in Europe or the British Isles. The crown of its helmet-shaped head is striped with orange in males and with yellow in females, and its eyebrows are marked with two stripes, one white, one black. Firecrests eat insects, small spiders and the eggs of moths for which they hunt among the trees and bushes.
Goldcrests may be observed every year in Birya Forest’s cedar plantation, but this is the first time that a common firecrest has been spotted there.
KKL-JNF Chief Ornithologist Yaron Charka told us, “KKL-JNF forests provide a vital habitat for many different bird species that overnight in them during migration, or perhaps even spend the entire winter there. Birya Forest is a very important stopover and overnight site for numerous species that pass through Israel on their way from the forests of Europe.”