The government on Sunday approved construction of four new birdwatching centers in the Negev and the Galilee and an upgrade to three existing centers at a cost of approximately NIS 37 million ($10 million).

The decision aims to promote tourism and education and increase environmental awareness and research. The move hopes to draw some 100,000 foreign bird-watchers to the country each year. 

According to the plan, four new ornithological centers will be built in Sde Boker in the Negev Desert, Ein Gedi along the Dead Sea, and Kibbutz Lotan and Moshav Hatzeva in the Arava, which is part of the Jordan Valley. Also, three existing centers — in Kibbutz Kfar Rupin, Kibbutz Maagan Michael and Eilat — will be upgraded.

The project may also encourage cooperation between Israel and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It calls for installing nest boxes in areas under PA control to encourage “natural rodent control in areas under cultivation,” Haaretz reported.

Cranes in the Hulla Valley. Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets, stay in the reserve each year during their migration from Europe to Africa. (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/Flash90)

Cranes in the Hulla Valley (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/Flash90)

Israel, located at the meeting point of three continents, on the Syrian-African Rift Valley, provides an ideal locale for bird-watchers. It constitutes a main migration route for 500 million birds that fly (in the autumn) from Europe and western Asia to Africa, and back (in the spring). Despite its relatively small size, Israel attracts approximately 540 species of birds.

The Hula Lake, part of the Hula Valley nature reserve, is one of Israel’s prime bird-watching havens. Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets, stay in the reserve each year while migrating from Europe to Africa.

Hula Lake, a marshland whose ecosystem was damaged after it was drained in the 1950s, was partially re-flooded in the 1990s — bringing back some of the species that used to live there.

One-fifth of Americans identify themselves as birdwatchers, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.