Barn Owls, Israeli Air Force and Satellite tagging of storks

In this episode, we have Professor Yossi Leshem from Israel joining us to discuss several things: tracking migratory storks with GPS, working with barn owls as pest control agents, regional cooperation, reducing aircraft collisions, and working with defense forces.  Dr. Leshem has won countless awards and is Professor Emeritus at the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University and is the founder of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration. 

Youtube video below:

Bio and Topics of the Interview

Yossi Leshem (photo: Oren Cohen )

Yossi Leshem is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University, and founder of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration. In 1971, he began his career at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and was CEO (1991- 1995) and chair of its public council.

Part1: Working with the defense forces

Remains of an IAF  F-16 from an accident with  Golden Eagle, in the Yehuda desert December 1988. (Photo: curtesy of the IAF)

Dr. Leshem works with the Chief of General Staff’s office to implement the “Nature Defense Forces – Commanders Take Responsibility for their Environment” project. Today, in this initiative, there are 60 projects with an educational emphasis for the commanders and soldiers to protect nature and the environment.

Motorized glider flying with a flock of Storks (photo: Eyal Bartov)

Prof. Leshem has been researching bird migration and raptor breeding ecology for 5 decades. His doctoral research at Tel Aviv University, conducted in cooperation with the Israel Air Force, reduced aircraft- bird collisions by 76%, thus saving the national budget $1.5 billion.

Part 2: Using barn owls as pest control agents

Yossi developed an online scientific educational curriculum ( that is currently taught in approximately 450 schools. He spearheaded the national effort to use barn owls as biological pest control agents in agriculture, significantly reducing the use of pesticides. 

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Regional cooperation with working with barn owls: Yossi is among the world’s most important birding experts. He has met with world leaders to promote Environmental Protection including presidents, prime ministers and the Pope. Since 2002, Prof. Leshem has initiated a host of successful joint projects with the Jordanians and Palestinians using Barn Owls as biological pest control agents in agriculture, combining education, research, and nature conservation. The project became a national and regional project with 5,000 nesting boxes, which reduced dramatically the use of pesticides in the region.

General Mansour Abu-Rashid from Jordan and Prof. Imad Cherkaoui form Morocco, with the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Itzhak Herzog and his wife Michal. Photo: Jossef Avi Yair Engel

In 2015, Cyprus and Greece joined the project and in 2021, Morocco joined as well. Following the meetings held in October 2021, at Expo Dubai, with the Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, they expressed a high interest to join the project as well. Now Prof. Leshem leads a trilateral project with Cyprus, Greece and Israel on the same subject. 

A Barn owl brings a rodent to its chicks in the nest box (Photo: Amir Ezer)

Part 3: Tracking migrating storks with GPS

He led an extensive research project in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute at Radolfzell to track migrating storks, using satellite transmitters. To this project joined the Ministry of Education in Israel, who financed the program to promote science and technology studies by tracking the Migrating Storks on-line.

White Storks in a stopover during migration (photo: Thomas Krumenacker)

Awards and Achievements

Prof. Leshem received many awards such as Lifetime Achievement Award for Environmental Protection, the Minister for Environmental Protection on Israel’s 60th independence celebrations (2008); Bruno H. Schubert Foundation Award for World Nature Conservation (2012); 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, The Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences; Honorary Fellowship award, Board of Governors, Technion (2017); Honorary Membership, Israel Zoological Society (2018), The award of “Significant Contributor to Israel Aviation”, the Israeli Air Line Pilots Association (2019) and a medal of appreciation from the commander of the Israeli Air Force.


Prof. Leshem is the author of 11 books, many scientific articles, and hundreds of popular articles. He is father of five, and grandfather to eight.


1.     Flying with birds –

2.     BUMA THE BARN OWL The Farmer’s Friend:

3.     “Wings of Change” broadcast on Israeli TV (with English subtitles):

4.     A meeting with the President  of Israel during the Seminar on Barn Owls as Biological Pest Control Agents in Agriculture, November 21-25, 2021:

5.     Our latest newsletter (see pages 2-3) :

6.     Barn Owls and Kestrels as pest control agents in agriculture:

7.      A meeting with the President  of Israel during the Seminar on Barn Owls as Biological Pest Control Agents in Agriculture, November 21-25, 2021 (see pages 2-3)

8.      Our Barn Owls team in DUBAI EXPO:

9.     Summary of the visit of the Minister Costas Kadis and his team to Israel, July 3rd-5th, 2022 :

10.  About my activity with the Israeli Air Force:

Photos and Credits

Princess Jonas, the German White Storks migration route. (Yossi Leshem & Peter Berthold)

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