March 4th 2015
Thanks to the country’s location at the junction of three continents, hundreds of millions of birds representing thousands of species fly over Israel every year. This phenomenon makes Israel an excellent destination for birding enthusiasts. Below are three spots that are considered to be especially amazing for checking out the fowl in flight.
Birds of the Fall
The Hula Valley Bird Festival takes place at Lake Hula in the Upper Galilee each year during the autumn migration. The festival’s activities are organized for bird watchers of all types, but with so many birds flying in the skies above Israel, you’re sure to find hard-to-spot birds at the Hula Valley reserve any time of year. This park is one of the only remaining natural swamps in Israel’s north, which once served as pivotal elements in the wildlife ecosystem of the region. The Crane Lookout tower here was built with contributions to the Jewish National Fund. Other options for viewing the birds include riding on a trailer pulled by a tractor, or sitting behind one of the strategically located bird blinds.
Springtime in the Desert
Spring is peak time for bird migration in the Arava desert, the dry flatlands that run north of the Red Sea port city of Eilat. The Eilat Bird Festival combines spring migration bird watching with tours of the Arava, the mountains around Eilat, the Negev desert and the Dead Sea. Eilat’s International Bird Watching Center is marked by signs in the shapes of birds. It’s always open, but, due to a lack of funding, if you come outside of festival season, there isn’t always someone there to speak to. Best to ask your tour consultant to arrange a private tour with a staff member in advance.
Scientists and Niche Hobbyists
Kfar Rupin, a small town in the Beit She’an Valley, is well-known for bird watching. In 2012, an underutilized building from the kibbutz’s earliest years was converted into an observatory for visiting bird watchers. Ornithologists who study migration patterns have set up a “ringing station” on Kibbutz Kfar Rupin. This allows them to identify individual birds by attaching a small, numbered metal or plastic tag to the bird’s leg or wing and then releasing the bird back into the wild.
Along with munching falafel and exploring the holy sites In Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv nightlife, bring your binoculars to Israel for some of the most diverse bird watching opportunities in the world.