Israel’s status as a haven for birding has been largely overlooked even though the country’s littoral and inland regions are considered to be one of the best sites in the world for observing seasonal bird migration. Ironically, it doesn’t matter what season you choose for a visit because the birds are constantly in flux, transferring from destination to destination in a perpetual search for amenable weather conditions and a plentiful food supply, both of which are quite abundant in the Holy Land.
The migration is a biannual event where Israel’s airways serve as a bridge between Africa and Eurasia in both directions. However, the dates are not rigid and birding in Israel has morphed into a year-round activity which oftentimes includes rare anomalies like the appearance of unexpected species at unexpected times.
Birdwatching tourism, or ‘Birding’, is growing and is firmly anchored by two birding festivals which are hosted each year by The Israel Ornithological Center (IOC). The Eilat bird festival occurs in the spring, where bird enthusiasts can embark on tours of the southern regions of Israel including the Arava region, Eilat Mountains, the Dead Sea and of course the Negev. The Hula Migration festivals occur in the autumn and activities are focused more on the Northern regions, especially the Hula Marshlands which are a big draw for a large number of species.
Although it would be an almost indomitable task to create an accurate list of the “indigenous” ornithological species extant in Israel, such a list does indeed exists and claims that there are 535 species of avifauna in the Israel, five of which who have been introduced through human error or negligence, and 141 which are rare or accidental occurrences.
The Drara, a type of green parrot valued as a pet, which is indigenous, inter alia, to Iran and India, is one of the five species that was introduced into Israel’s ecosystem through human error in the early 60’s. According to the unverified story that has become part of this bird’s legacy, the Israel custom’s authority held a shipment of about 30 birds in flimsy cages, in quarantine, and the Draras simply pecked their way out, and flew free into the Israel countryside.
This bird’s extremely tough beak has the strength of a pair of pliers, and it is constantly growing. The Drara is not an evil creature bent with intent to cause destruction. If the Drara does not peck and chew tough materials, the beak will grow so long that it can’t even eat. The Drara has thrived in Israel, and this species has proven to be quite a nuisance to farmers and apartment owners who suffer from the incessant destruction of pendulous construction elements which are reduced to dust in certain areas where the bird nests.
Another trouble maker that was inadvertently induced into Israel is the Common Myna (See the photo above). This bird is indigenous to the Indian sub-continent. It was mistakenly introduced into Australia to fight pests, and in the end, caused the extinction of other bird species because it nests in holes, and drove the local ornithological inhabitants out. It was introduced into Israel as a zoo attraction at the Safari Park on the Hyarkon River in the 80’s and somehow escaped and infiltrated the indigenous ecosystem, disrupting it slightly, although some claim otherwise.
The Common Myna, like many of the new residents of Israel, decided to stay in Tel Aviv. Livelihood and housing conditions were amenable. This miraculous event has occurred in part due to the fact that the Myna finds plentiful food and favorable climate in the Tel Aviv area, and has remained in this area, extending a bit into Gush Dan. If it migrates to agricultural areas, it could do a great deal of damage due to its love for luscious fruits.
Israel is a mosaic culture composed primarily of immigrants hailing from the four corners of the earth. Since the Holy Land is known for its successful immigrant absorption programs, it has obviously applied this hospitable approach to the new and transient bird populations, and tourists can enrich their sojourn through history, religion, archaeology and pop culture and expand to a nature attraction that will not only fill the camera memory card but also leave keen memories that will be saved to the human hard drive.
Please contact us at your leisure to explore a birding vacation or simply a one-day outing. Mazada Tours specialize in creating unique itineraries that will leave you with full satisfaction through a unique combination of the traditional as well as forward-looking adventures.
By Brent J. Mitchell