Birds of Israel
Birding in Israel
There is no better country on earth than Israel for birding. Visitors arrive to observe millions of birds in migration, not to mention birds of Israel which can be found year round.
Every year, migrations to and from Europe and Western Asia bring 300 species, approximately 500 million birds, to the skies over Israel.
Spring and fall, birds make their way to and from Africa through the Great Rift Valley. Israel provides ample food and water and the birds take time to feed, drink and rest in preparation for their flight over the hot and barren Sahara Desert in Africa. A perfect time to do some great birding in Israel!
Caring for birds comes naturally to Israelis and great efforts are made to assist birds that get injured. Treatments occur at field centers of the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) in Israel, by rangers from the national parks and nature reserves, and at bird ringing stations.
Recently, an injured King Crane, found lying on a road in Ashkelon, was brought by a motorist to the Ashkelon Veterinary Service. After receiving first aid, the bird was transferred to the Wild Animals Hospital for further treatment until it was well enough to be sent to the Safari Zoo in Ramat Gan.
One of the main zoos treating injured birds is the Tel Aviv University Zoo, which works in conjunction SPNI. At the Zoo, wild birds in danger of becoming extinct are bred and then released back into nature. To bring in injured wild animals or birds, call (03)640-9056.
Success of the Zoo’s breeding program is evident in the birds that can be seen in the Israeli landscape. Visit the Hula Valley, one of Israel’s major bird watching sites, to see the white-tailed eagle soaring majestically across the sky. Lanner falcons and griffon vultures can be seen flying above the Carmel Mountains.
Hula Valley Bird Festival
If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about regarding birding, take in the annual Hula Valley Bird Festival generally scheduled each November.
The festival is sponsored by the Israel Ornithological Center (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). Providing lectures and tours lead by “birders” and experienced tour guides, participants learn about and experience all the major bird watching sites in northern Israel and the Hula Valley. The festival is based at the Pastoral Hotel in Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the heart of the Hula Valley.
In the Hula Valley Nature Reserve, keep your eyes open to spot thousands of Common Cranes, Pelicans, Ducks, Waders, and Passerines who spend the winter. Some of the rarest European birds of prey, including the Great Spotted and Imperial Eagles, as well as the recently new-found Black Winged Kite can be seen in the Hula Valley during November.
Another notable spot for birdwatching is the Bet Shean Valley, a favorite stopover for migrating birds. At Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, you will find a bird-watching and ringing station and a variety of birds including storks, pelicans, black-headed gulls, shellducks, bee-eaters and more.
Bird Watching in Jerusalem
Have limited time and want to combine your birding with other activities? The Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO) is Israel’s national site for bird ringing and is a great place for bird watching right in the heart of Jerusalem. At least 179 different species of birds can be viewed here and you can have close contact with ringed birds. The Visitor’s Center has a computerized classroom. Located between the Knesset and the Supreme Court Building, you can also view many birds at the neighboring Wohl Rose Garden. Take a side trip to nearby Gan Sacher Park for a picnic or to let the kids blow off some steam on the interesting playground equipment.
Other Bird Observation sites can be found at:
- Port city of Ashdod on the edge of the Lachish River
- Armored Corps Museum at Latrun in the Judean foothills
- Ma’agan Michael with a bird ringing station on the Carmel coast
Given the number of species and sheer number of birds gracing our skies, it is no surprise that Israel plans to open four new bird-watching stations. These new locations will be in:
- Kibbutz Ein Gedi at the Dead Sea
- Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev
- Kibbutz Lotan
- the Hatzeva Field School in the Arava
Birding is also big in Israel’s south. Eilat’s Ofira Park attracts thousands of migrating birds. This is the only park in Eilat’s hotel neighborhood, but one of the first green places birds see as they migrate north over the Red Sea. The Isrotel Agamim Hotel, the site for the annual spring Eilat Birds Festival, is just across the road from Ofira Park and also has a view of the Salt Pools where beautiful flamingos can be seen.
Birds of Israel: Did You Know?
Kfar Ruppin’s solution to controlling mice and rodents is their natural predator – owls!