The PratincoleThe Spur-Winged PloverThe Black-Winged Stilt

  • Issue: October 1975
  • Designer: W. Ferguson
  • Stamp size: 30.8 x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 451 - 453
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Some 410 different species of wild birds are known in Israel of which about 50 - one-eighth - belong to the order of Waders or Wader-like birds. They are, as a rule, birds of the open countryside and the majority of them, as their name implies, prefer areas in which land and water meet - swamps, pools or the sea coast. Most of Israel's Waders - both in terms of the number of species and in terms of bird population - are winter visitors or merely passage migrants, visiting us in the Autumn and Spring. Among them, are some which are exceedingly rare and others which can be seen in large, densely-packed flocks comprising a range of different species. You can watch them as they keep pushing their beaks into the mud to bring up food, or at rest - standing on one leg with their heads thrown back.

In the summer the Wades are little to be seen in Israel - most of them fly off to Europe where they hatch their eggs and raise a new generation. There are only six species which hatch their eggs and raise their young here in Israel and the number of such pairs can be counted in dozens. There was a time when they were more numerous, but the drainage of the swamplands and the use of pesticides combined to bring about a drastic drop in the breeding population.

This set of stamps illustrates three of the Waders. All three are on the "Red List" which lists all those species whose numbers have been drastically reduced and are in danger of destruction unless steps are taken to protect them.

The Pratincole (Glareola Pratincola)

In Israel, the Pratincole is a summer bird. With the approach of winter, it flies south, returning in the spring - around April.

It is about the size of a starling and can be identified by its long tail which is split at the end like the swallow's.

Unlike most of the species of this order which are drawn towards the water and congregate there, the Pratincole belongs to the open fields and is to be found in the valleys of northern and central Israel - from the Hula to the coastal plain - where they congregate in flocks of several dozen birds. Like all its relations, however, the Pratincole hatches its eggs on the ground, in ploughed fields, among mounds of dust, without any lining. The Pratincole is a sociable bird and the pairs usually hatch in small colonies in which the nests are to be found 10-12 meters apart. Each nest contains 2-3 yellowish-green eggs speckled with large dark brown patches. This colouring serves as an effective camouflage for the eggs. The hatching takes about two-and-a-half weeks and a similar period elapses from the time the egg breaks open until the fledglings spread their wings and fly off with their parents and the rest of the flock.

The Pratincole lives on insects which it catches in flight, and in Africa, where it is to be found in flocks as many as several thousands strong, it is counted among the important destroyers of the locust.

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The Spur-Winged Plover (Hoplopterus Spinosus)

Whatever the season - spring, summer, autumn or winter -the Spur-Winged Plover takes pride in its dress clothes. Although its colours are only brown, black and white, it is one of the most splendid and attention-catching birds - whether at its post on the open field or on the banks of a pond, or while in flight overhead as it gives out an unceasing succession of calls and shrieks. The Spur-Winged Plover is with us all the year round. They generally appear in pairs or small groups, but never in flocks.

Like most of the Waders, the Spur-Winged Plover prefers swamps and water and hatches its eggs on the ground. Unlike the other Waders, however, who sometimes hatch their eggs in groups, each pair of Spur-Winged Plovers has its own clearly-marked piece of ground. They keep off all intruders of their own species by a mixture of threats and fighting and often even drive away other birds. The nests of the Spur-Winged Plover have been found, up to now, mostly in the Bet Shean and Hula valleys and recently, perhaps because of the proliferation of fish ponds, also in the area of Akko and along the sea coast.

The female lays 4 eggs in the nest which, thanks to their protective colouring, blend with their surroundings. The hatching takes about three weeks and both parents share in the work. Caring for the offspring takes about a further four weeks. One of the most delightful spectacles to be seen at this time, is the sight of one of the parents with legs bent, calling to its fledglings to come and take shelter beneath his body - lest he should catch cold, Heaven forbid!

The Spur-Winged Plover is to be found in very few parts of the world, and its habitat stretches from Turkey, via Syria and Egypt to the Sudan and Kenya.

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The Black-Winged Stilt (Himantopus Himantopus)

Should you see a bird walking along the water's edge as if on long, red stilts, you can be sure that it is a Black-Winged Stilt. In the past, he was even known as "Longlegs" or "Stilt-walker".

As a general rule, several pairs of Black-Winged Stilts make their nests together, on tiny islands, in the mud at the water's edge, or on the parapets of fish ponds - in a hole in the ground, without any lining. In this nest they lay their four eggs.

If any uninvited guest approaches the nesting area, the flock takes to the air with calls and shrieks while several birds stay on the ground, fluttering their drooping wings as though injured and unable to fly. The purpose of this stratagem is to attract attention to themselves and thus keep the stranger away from the nesting area. When this happens, it is best to get away from the site as quickly as possible so as to let the flock calm down and resume hatching.

Since the Black-Winged Stilt's eggs are exposed to the sun's rays, they are liable to be damaged by heat, and as there are only about 100 hatching pairs in Israel, it is a case of "watch every egg".

If the hatching was successful, after 25 days the lovely little plumed fledglings will peck their way out of the egg. From the moment they leave the egg, they are capable of running around, but it takes about four weeks before they are able to fly. During this period they are in danger of falling prey to animals or meeting some other unpleasant fate. Their only defence is to make themselves invisible, and as soon as they hear their parents' warning cry, they flatten themselves on the ground, in the shade of some grass or in a fold in the ground, and then - try to find them. It is as if the earth had opened up and swallowed them. Not until they hear their parents' "all clear", signal, do they get up from their hiding place and continue running around.

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Protected wild birds