Flying in for the holiday

Thousands of pelicans stop over in Israel en route to Africa

Migrating birds flock to Lake Hula in the north of the country as they head to warmer climates

White pelicans at Hula Lake in northern Israel (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: White pelicans at Hula Lake in Northern Israel (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Thousands of migrating pelicans landed Sunday morning in the Hula Valley on their way south to warmer climates for the winter.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority released a video of the great white pelicans swarming the banks of the Hula water reserve in the north of the country.

The sight is an annual occurrence as the birds journey from Europe to Africa.

With a location at the nexus of three continents, and a climatic diversity that ranges from arid desert in the south to a cooler mountainous region in the north, Israel draws about 500 million birds annually from 550 species.

With hundreds of bird species passing through each year, the Hula Valley in northern Israel is one of the prime bird-watching spots in a country that has gained a reputation as a place of pilgrimage for ornithologists.

The Hula Valley became a prime bird-watching spot by accident. Drained of its swamps in the 1950s, the valley was re-flooded four decades later when KKL-JNF realized the drainage had damaged the local ecosystem. Farmers began planting corn and peanuts in the newly re-moistened soil — exactly the crops cranes like to eat.

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