“If they don’t eat, they don’t fly,” is what one Israeli ecologist recently said in a Haaretz article on the new Pelican Restaurant, open for business in the Hula Valley.
Some 500 million birds will be flying through Israel this fall, as they migrate from Europe to Africa. Fish farmers in Israel, irate over birds pillaging their fish ponds have been known to open fire on the birds. To keep nature in balance, the government has approved NIS 300,000 to stock the Hula Valley pond with tons of fresh tilapia for the pelicans and storks to feed on.
I’d recently interviewed the chief avian ecologist for Israel, Oded Hatzofe, who talked with me about the immense numbers of environmental stressors birds face while migrating.
Competing with fish ponds is a small part of the problem. Hunting for fun, is a bigger problem, says Hatzofe, with 1 in 4 birds prey of prey found to have a lead bullet inside it. People in Arab countries, and minority populations in Israel, people in Africa, Malta, Greece and France (the only ones who hunt for food), are decimating bird populations.
Fragmented territories, decimated wildlife reserves and ponds, environmental hazards like electric wires, all take a toll.
To make a difference? Go to the Hula Valley Nature Reserve this Rosh Hashanna to see the birds, and Pelican Restaurant. The cost of your visit (about $8) will help pay for the upkeep of the important nesting ground. For more on birding in Israel, see the Israel Birding website.
(Above image: a bird-watchers lookout at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. By Ron Almog.)