In Pictures |

Flights of Fancy: Bird Migration in Israel's Hula Valley

Migration season brings millions of soaring and squawking birds to Israel to the delight of camera-clicking spectators.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

To enter the expanse known as the Hula Valley, with its vast plains encased by the steep, sloping mountains of Israel’s Upper Galilee, is to experience nature’s own theater-in-the-round. It is a breathtaking sensory production, a symphony of sight and sound, as the migration season’s show-stealer – Eurasian cranes numbering in the tens of thousands – soar and squawk to the delight of camera-clicking Israeli spectators, tourists, and bird watchers.

“I am shocked by its beauty,” said Uwe George, a natural scientist and bird-watcher, who traveled to Israel from Germany for the second time in nine months to watch the seasonal ritual at the Agamon-Hula-KKL Nature Reserve.

With an estimated 500 million birds from more than 400 species said to fly over Israel’s skies each migrating season, millions among them from Eastern Europe and Western Asia are now touching-down in the 25-square-kilometer Hula Valley en route to their ultimate destination: Africa.

“Israel is the land connection between three continents,” said Nadav Israeli, manager of the neighboring Hula Valley Birding Center for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. “It is the perfect place for them to migrate over because of its fresh water and vegetation.”

According to Israeli, during the current migrating season – which began for some birds as early as July and will continue through March – more than 1 million raptors have already touched down in the valley, in addition to 50,000 white pelicans, 100,000 Eurasian cranes and 300,000 honey buzzards.

At the nature reserve, which operates a park throughout the year and recently held two international bird festivals, scores of visitors on golf carts and tandem bicycles could be seen heading toward the congregation of cranes and its collective chorus of piercing calls. Other spectators stopped in their tracks, looking up at the sky as the cranes flew by in formations from as few as four to the hundreds.

Many of the special guests will remain in the valley for winter, feeding off its pastures that evoke images of perpetually long football fields, or grass-covered airport landing strips. Then they will move on.

“It is an important stopover,” said Israeli. “The birds get to rest, refuel and regenerate their energies.”

Cranes in the Hula Valley. Photos by Yaron Kaminsky, Dror Galili and SPNI.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott