Saturday, January 8, 2011

Israel is a Country that’s for the Birds

Shalom Yeladim:
I bet you didn’t know that over 300 different kinds of birds spend their winter in Israel. Not only that, every Spring 500 million birds pass through our skies! You’ve got it – Israel is a country that’s for the birds and our fine feathered friends are definitely getting a bird’s eye view of our country. And the 500 million birds? Our President – Shimon Peres – says that’s a world record!

Yup, you could say we’re a bird watching superpower. Bird watchers from all over the world come to our shores to look at our skies. More than one little birdie told me so. We’re so popular that we’ve just held our first International Bird Watching Festival in the Galilee and last year we held our fourth Bird Watching Festival in Eilat. Our bird watching season starts in October and lasts until the end of March. One of the best places to bird watch is the Hula Valley, an agricultural region in northern Israel. It’s a hot spot for birds migrating along the Syrian-African rift. They’re kinda like tourists traveling between Africa, Europe and Asia, making Israel their stopover. Hey, I wonder if they fly First Class? After all, they have to take care of themselves since a lot of them are endangered species – like Common Cranes, Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles, Pygmy Cormorant, Black Storks, and you wouldn’t believe it – 30 different kinds of birds of prey, as well as pelicans, ducks and geese.

With all these birds coming and going, I bet you’re wondering if any of them make Israel their home. The answer is “yes.” We even have a national bird – and it’s not the bald eagle. Ours is the cute Hoopoe Bird.

It’s a medium sized bird that stands out because of its color combination of orange, black and white, and its long, thin bill that it uses for poking at the ground. When it flies it looks like a giant butterfly.

What other birds live in Israel? I think finding out is a great project for you and your classmates.
Me? I gotta fly. After all, I’m as free as a bird – and a lot more fun!

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