Cliffs of Zin and the Negev highlands

Country/territory: Israel

IBA criteria met: A4i, A4iv, B1i, B1iv, B2, B3 (1994)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 25,000 ha

Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

Site description (1994 baseline)
A region of desert near Sede Boqer, 50 km south of Be'er Sheva, 300-600 m above sea-level. It is a mountainous area of sedimentary rock capped with fossil loess and contains some perennial streams and waterholes. The plateau, north of Wadi Zin, is partly settled by Kibbutz Sede-Boqer (mainly agriculture and livestock) and the Sede-Boqer educational campus. The climate is arid. Rainfall occurs in winter, averaging 85 mm, with large annual variation in amount, timing and spatial distribution. The major pulse of plant growth occurs about mid-January to mid-April. A few oases with springs and large rock pools hold water all year. Most of the vegetation on the highest plateau (over 470 m) is of Irano-Turanian origin, dominated mainly by Artemisia. The lowest part of the Zin valley (300 m) is vegetated mainly with Saharo-Arabian forms, characterized by Anabasis, with sparse and patchy vegetation, being mainly limited to seasonal stream beds. Military activity is considerable and there is a little cultivation.

Key biodiversity
An unusually large number of raptors and owls breeds on the cliffs of Wadi Zin: Neophron percnopterus, Gyps fulvus, Circaetus gallicus, Buteo rufinus, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco tinnunculus, F. concolor, F. biarmicus, F. pelegrinoides, Tyto alba, Bubo ascalaphus, Athene noctua, Strix butleri, and Asio otus. At least 230 bird species have been recorded in the area, including at least 54 confirmed or presumed to breed, and at least 170 migrants. The area lies on a major migratory flyway and there is a passage of over 3,000 raptors in spring.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Caracal caracal (rare), Panthera pardus (rare), Capra nubiana (I), Gazella gazella (V) and G. dorcas (V). Reptiles: Varanus griseus (rare) and Uromastyx aegyptius (rare). Flora: Hammada negevensis (endemic) and Origanum dayi.

Data-sheet compiled by R. Frumkin.

Raptors MOU - IBA listed under Table 3 of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Cliffs of Zin and the Negev highlands. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023.