Israel has always been home to many different bird species. Some of them mentioned as far back as the Bible while others appear in rock paintings and ancient mosaics. There are approximately 550 species of birds to be found in Israel. A major reason for the broad range of birds found in Israel is its geographical location. Israel is an important station along the migratory route many birds take from Africa to Asia or Europe. Some of these birds are growing in numbers and migrate by the thousands, while some are so few as to be in danger of extinction. Israel is also home to a large community of bird watchers who participate in international surveys and in efforts to save certain species from extinction.
The bird population can be divided into five main categories. In the first, we shall find birds who spend most of the year in Israel. Good examples for this group are lapwings, the common blackbirds, sparrows, hummingbirds, white-throat kingfishers, vultures, hoppers and the warblers. The second group is that of birds who spend the spring and summer months in the country and then spend the winter in Africa. There are about 30 species in this group, notably swifts, circaetus, European Turtle doves, Egyptian vulture, and the bearded vulture etc.
The next group we have, are those birds hailing from colder climates (Europe) that spend their winters in Israel. This large group of birds is comprised from approximately 90 species, including wagtails, the black-headed gull, the sturnus and the European robin.
There is a group of birds that does not nestle in the country and for which Israel is simply a stop on their migratory route. This is a large group, comprising of approximately 120 species, who frequent the country both on their way northwards (in the spring) and southwards (in the autumn). Amongst these are the Eurasian pelican, the blackcap, the white stork and the steppe eagle. The last category is of those species that due to climate changes or changes in the air currents find their way to Israel although it is not normally on their migratory path. In this group you can find 130 species including the swan, black eagle, the northern bald ibis and the cinereous vulture.
Many of the species that traverse the skies refrain from passing through the country’s more populated areas. However, sometimes their paths change and you can find them within the boundaries of agricultural fields, cities, landfills and near fish ponds, a fact that constitutes a danger to the birds and often draws a heavy toll from the local agriculture. Israel is attempting to overcome this problem by deliberately preparing hospitable nesting conditions in preferred locations such as the Hula Valley and parts of the Jordan Valley. And it is a wonderful experience to visit these locales and reserves during the migratory season.
Birds can be sighted even in the urban landscape. Some species have learned to live and enjoy the presence of people around them, and at times representatives of these species nest on window sills in residential areas. Among these species, can be found the common dove, the turn, the weenie, sparrow, partridge, black-tailed raven, falcons and the owl. Another flying animal, though not a bird in itself, which is very common in cities and can be found in almost all regions of the country is the bat. These make their appearances at sunset and can be found in large numbers especially in the Jordan Valley.
There are many active bird watchers in Israel and the local population cooperates in protecting the birds in order to preserve the beauty and majesty that these bring with them. Such gifts transform the land of Israel, where the continents meet into a very special meeting place. The government also cooperates in protecting the birds of Israel through the enactment of laws and regulations that prohibit harming or hunting most types of birds, and help protect the species.