Cranes -  Zafrir Rinat
Cranes feeding near Lake Hula in northern Israel. Photo by Zafrir Rinat
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Israeli ornithologists have confirmed a long-held theory that the tens of thousands of cranes that visit Hula Lake every year migrate from Finland to Ethiopia every winter, stopping in Israel to eat and rest, experts at the Israel Ornithology Center said recently.

This was confirmed when the bird experts saw that one of the birds, now on its way back to Europe for the spring, had been tagged in Finland when it was born nine months ago and was sighted in Ethiopia over the winter.

"This route goes from Finland, passes through Israel and reaches Ethiopia," said Itai Shanni of the ornithology center, which is part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

"For years we thought that this was the route, but it was just a theory. Now we have an example of how important it is to tag the cranes so we can research the migration of these impressive birds."

Colorful rings were placed around the birds' legs by Finnish researchers to enable ornithologists to identify the cranes from a distance.

When the birds are in Israel, farmers provide them with food set out for them in an effort to keep them from eating from the fields near the Hula Lake.

Thousands more migrating cranes are expected to refuel in Israel shortly on their way northward. An estimated 10,000 cranes, pelicans and storks arrived in the area over the last few days alone, a sight that has become a tourist attraction.