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Israel paradise for birds

Israel is located at geographical bridge between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa, which make it a “bottleneck” into which hundreds of migrant species converge during spring and autumn migration.

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Bird paradise Israel is located at geographical bridge between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa, which make it a “bottleneck” into which hundreds of migrant species converge during spring and autumn migration. Thanks to its unique location a vast variety of migrant species are found in Israel

As result of this singular geographic location, the boundaries of many birds distribution range occur in Israel        

Few countries can simultaneously boast skies filled with raptors, storks and pelicans, wetlands heaving with egrets, herons, wildfowl and shorebirds, hillsides alive with the songs of warblers, wheatears and bunting.
Israel has all of these. Sometimes described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ and more, to be enjoyed amidst spectacular scenery.
Quite simply, it is one of the most exciting and accessible regions for bird watching in the whole of the West Palearctic.

More than 500 species have been recorded in Israel and over 400 of these occur annually. Many Middle Eastern and classic desert birds, specialties such as Black Francolin, Spur-winged Plover, White-breasted and Pied Kingfishers, Clamorous Reed Warbler and many raptors can be seen with relative ease year-round. Little Green Bee-eater, Desert Lark, Pale Crag Martin, Blackstart, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Scrub Warbler, Arabian Babbler, and Brown-necked Raven. Can be easily seen here.


A brief tour to Israel birding sites


The Carmel coast at Ma'agen Mikhael has long been associated with the huge and highly attractive Great Black-headed Gull, but few birders are prepared for the overwhelming abundance of storks, herons, shorebirds and gulls that concentrate around these fish ponds and along the Mediterranean shore. A little further north, an excellent sea watching site at Tel Shiqmona could give close views of Cory's and Yelkouan Shearwaters over an azure Mediterranean Sea.

Moving east into the heart of the Jezreel Valley, a particularly well-hidden reservoir regularly supports hundreds of wintering White-headed Duck. Since the early 1990s, this valley (along with the Bet Shean Valley) has been home to the annual autumn survey of migrating soaring birds, organized by the Israel Ornithological Centre. Over the years, the survey has collected internationally important data on many threatened soaring bird species. Details on how to take part in this survey are included with this guide.

Approximately 25,000 Cranes spend the winter in the Hula Valley, their numbers being swollen by migrants in late November, when up to 35,000 of these magical birds fill fields and wetlands. Globally threatened raptors such as Spotted and Imperial Eagles are present throughout the winter and early spring. The Hula Valley also hosts highly localized species such as Black Francolin and Clamorous Reed Warbler, and provides a fine base for exploring the adjacent Mount Hermon and Golan Heights region. Here, a range of bird species that breed nowhere else in Israel can be found, including Shore Lark, Sombre Tit, Crimson-winged Finch and Syrian Serin.

Leaving the 2000 m-high and often snow-capped peak of Mount Hermon and heading south along the volcanic plateau of the Golan, spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee provide a stunning backdrop to search for Black Vulture. Also known as Lake Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee is a vast freshwater lake harbouring impressive numbers of wintering grebes, Pygmy Cormorant, breeding Squacco Heron and a spectacular winter concentration of Whiskered Tern. The surrounding hillsides are full of birds, including Eagle Owl, Little Swift and Long-billed Pipit throughout the year. Patient scanning of the steep-sided wadis in winter may well produce a major prize in the form of a Wallcreeper.

Late spring is an ideal time to visit breeding sites for Orphean and Olive-tree Warbler in the upper reaches of the Galilee region. The glorious atmosphere of a Mediterranean spring has wider appeal to all, with a breathtaking display of wild flowers in these hills.

Less than an hour south-east of Lake Tiberias in the Rift Valley basin, the essentially semi-arid steppe climate of the Bet Shean Valley is of major interest to birders. The ornithological and archaeological riches of this region provide an ideal focus for three of four days of the highest quality birding, with an opportunity for an enjoyable break around the ancient Roman Amphitheatre in the town of Bet Shean. The fields, fish ponds and plantations around Kefar Ruppin offer a lush, magnetic attraction for hundreds of thousands of birds, and produce some of Israel's most exciting records of rare and scarce birds. Sometimes referred to as the Eilat of the north, Kefar Ruppin offers fine facilities and also operates a ringing station which birders are welcome to visit.

We hope that the following pages will provide a valuable travel companion when planning a visit to northern Israel. There is something here for everyone to enjoy the experience of bird finding in this fascinating region of the Middle East.


Eilat north beach, at the head of the Red Sea, offers the opportunity for observing a range of species rarely encountered elsewhere in the West Palearctic region such as Brown Booby, Green-backed and Western Reef Herons and White-eyed Gull. At peak season, birders gather here in their 100s and a great deal of information is exchanged. It is also an excellent place to see rare tubenoses and terns, which penetrate north along the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Inland, the southern Arava Valley possesses a rich mosaic of salt pans, fields and plantations that not only support highly localised species such as Namaqua Dove, but also attract millions of migrants each year. Thorough exploration of all the habitats around Eilat can absorb many rewarding days of birding.

Further north, the now famous lark site at km 33, will hopefully provide you with views of such sought-after species as Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Desert Lark, and Desert Warbler. Sadly, the alluvial sand-blown flats here are under constant threat of development, engaging local organisations such as the International Birdwatching Center Eilat (IBCE), Nature Reserves Authority (NRA) and Kibbutz Lotan in a constant battle for the area’s protection.

Kibbutz Lotan and Neot Smadar (aka kibbutz Shizzafon) feature strongly in this guide as a new, exciting destinations in which to go birding. Both sites are rapidly developing a reputation for attracting rare and unusual species, and also as reliable places to see species such as Barbary Falcon, Crowned Sandgrouse, Long-eared Owl, Mourning Wheatear and Desert Finch.

The vast expanse of the Negev plateau covers more than half of Israel’s land surface area.
Mizpe Ramon and its famous geological crater, virtually in the centre of the Negev, provide a range of facilities and a convenient place to explore several locations for Golden Eagle, Chukar, Cream-coloured Courser, several sandgrouse species, Trumpeter Finch and House Bunting.
Further north-west similar species can be expected in the area of the Zin Valley and Sede Boqer, which is a rather more reliable place to see Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Sooty Falcon (summer / autumn only) and Bonelli’s Eagle.

The northern Arava supports fewer sandgrouse than formerly, but is still worthy of a visit for its breeding raptors and Eagle Owl. The Acacia scrub at Hazeva is now the most important stronghold for the declining Arabian Warbler in Israel.

The Dead Sea region is magnificent in many respects, especially historically and geologically. World renowned for being the lowest place on earth (400 m below sea-level) and the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, it is rich in birdlife, supporting several internationally important habitats, including an area of Suaeda / tamarisk saltmarsh that supports a tiny relict population of Nubian Nightjar. While the future of this bird remains uncertain in Israel and the Jordan Valley, there are moves to develop an international nature reserve to preserve the unique habitat of this fascinating species.

Another highly sought-after species, the Houbara Bustard, can still be found in small numbers at Nizzana, in the extreme western Negev. Here, the steppe-like plains also harbour large flocks of sandgrouse and larks, and serve as an important migration route for several species of raptor rarely recorded further east at Eilat, such as Lesser Spotted Eagle.

A winter visit should produce Finsch’s Wheatear, and this is also the season to visit the fields of the north-west Negev, particularly the Urim area. Here, feral doves, larks and sometimes Pin-tailed Sandgrouse gather in 1000s, which in turn attract 100s of raptors. Saker, Pallid Harrier and Imperial Eagle occur in greater concentrations here than anywhere else in Israel. If this was insufficient, regular wintering populations of Sociable Plover, Cream-coloured Courser and Dotterel should keep you enthralled.


 Sites & Attractions

Tel Azekah This is an archeological mound at the top of a high hill west of the Ela V...
The largest Mahtesh (crater) in the Negev in the Ramon mountain range. The mahtesh is a...
Bird-watching and bird-ringing center located on the international axis of bird migrati...
An activity center for birdwatchers, with an office that organizes tours of the beautif...
The Isaac Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum, located in a 500-year-old house in Jerusalem’...
Christians have been visiting the house of Peter at Capernaum in Galilee since the dawn...


The HI- Ein Gedi Hostel offers views of the Dead Sea and the magnificent cliffs of the ...
Seafront hotel with private beach at the southern end of Acre. Rooms face the Mediterra...
The HI-Arad hostel is located in the city of Arad in the heart of the Negev desert.
The HI-Poriya hostel, located on the Southern shores of the Sea of Galilee, is a conven...