image Photo: Flash90

Pelicans invade Israel

Flocks of some 45,000 of the migrating birds have touched down in Israel, as one of their favorite layovers during their journey south to Africa to spend the winter.

By Erin Viner

The pelicans are among hundreds of millions of other birds that pass through Israel each migration season, as part of their preference of an overland route as opposed to riskier flight paths over the sea. They will stop over again this coming spring on their way north to Europe and Asia.

The problem is that these large visitors show up hungry – and are known to have developed a fondness for fish raised by Israeli farmers.

Efforts to safeguard the economic fall-out caused by the unwelcome diners at commercial fisheries, Israeli authorities have set up pelican-friendly reservoirs at a key location where an alternative cuisine is on the menu, free-of-charge. Some 2.5 tons of lower-quality fish have been transferred into a designated pond at the Mishmar HaSharon Kibbutz near the Mediterranean coast where the pelicans are welcome to feast.

“The program is aimed at minimizing the friction between man and pelican,” Ofir Bruckenstein, of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, told Reuters.

Not only are their appetites satisfied, but the pelicans are given a safe haven amid their often perilous and exhausting migration that covers thousands of kilometers.

As many as half a billion birds die during the seasonal journey, estimates The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, caused by natural predators as well as human activity such as the destruction of habitats and electrocution by power cables.