Copy of It's all about the birds in Israel

Viva Sarah Press

Israel 21C

Aug 29, 2013

Birding in Israel is serious business. With more than one billion feathered friends flying over Israel during spring and autumn, and an amazing variety of resident bird species, the country is one of the world’s best places for bird-watching all year long.

“Israel sits on the junction of three continents,” Prof. Yossi Leshem, director of Israel’s International Center for the Study of Bird Migration (ICSBM) , tells ISRAEL21c. “Politically, it’s a disaster, but for bird migration, it’s heaven. We have a huge bird bottleneck — it’s a superhighway.”

A new report indicating that the international bird-watching community comprises some 100 million people has prompted private and governmental Israeli organizations to put more resources into birding tourism.

The Israeli government recently okayed a $10 million budget to revamp the national network of birding centers. The five-year plan calls to improve some of the existing eight birding centers and build seven new ones. Each center will highlight education, research and conservation of a specific region and its birds.

Separately, ground will be broken this year for a new ICSBM building at Latrun, and the first stages of a wetlands will take shape in central Tel Aviv.

Leshem, the expert on all things bird related in Israel, says hardcore birders know that Israel is a hotspot for bird-watching but that reaching the greater recreational audiences is a central goal.

“Birding is the story of the present,” says Leshem, a senior researcher in the department of zoology at Tel Aviv University. “People in the bird business know that this is a place to come. You can see 540 species or 40,000 storks in one morning. This is something really special.”