Rangers in southern Israel spotted 246 houbara bustards in their recent annual count of the endangered bird species, marking an increase compared to last year’s count of 193.

Houbaras of different kinds reside in the area stretching from Mongolia to the Canary Islands. In Israel, they are an iconic desert bird and flagship species whose presence indicates the well-being of a wide range of animals and fauna.

For the past two decades, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has been working on their preservation, and this year also began a joint research program with Abu Dhabi’s International Fund for Houbara Conversation.

The birds are in danger due to mankind’s expanding activities in their natural habitat – from the building of new towns to the expansion of agricultural and solar fields.

The recent count took place inside Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheva, where 225 birds were found, and the area of Nitzana near the Egyptian border, where the rangers spotted 21 birds. Overall, there are some 400 houbara bustards in Israel.

“The most recent count, which was carried out in coordination with and with the assistance of the Air Force, shows that the houbara population in the northern Negev is maintaining its stability in the past decade, numbering some 200 individuals that spend the summer months in the grounds of the base and the nearby Loess Park reserve,” says Udi Columbus, INPA’s northern Negev ecologist.