Cliffs of Zin and the Negev highlands

Site description (1994 baseline):

Site location and context
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.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area with the most breeding raptors is included within the Nature Reserve or within the part of Ein Avdat National Park which lies within this site. The rest of the area (11,500 ha) is also protected by the Nature Reserves Authority (NRA) as an unofficial nature reserve, and the NRA also helps to protect the National Park. The area is open to visitors all year and travellers can reach nest-sites and disturb breeding raptors without knowing. Despite the efforts of the NRA to reduce the disturbance, insufficient manpower is available to cover the area properly. Military helicopters sometimes train in the area, flying low along cliffs and inside canyons, disturbing nesting or roosting raptors. A plan to improve an existing track along Wadi Zin may bring hundreds of private cars closer to the cliffs and risk disturbing breeding raptors. Human land-use may adversely affect the loess plain around Sede Boqer. The introduction of alien or non-local tree species could become more extensive than at present. More supervision is needed, and more educational work with the Israeli Air Force.

Data-sheet compiled by R. Frumkin.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Cliffs of Zin and the Negev highlands. Downloaded from on 02/10/2023.