The vote for Israel's National Bird
As part of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Education, Tel Aviv University and Israel Discount Bank, initiated widespread activity to increase people's connection to the landscapes of their homeland through birds. The project leaders were Dr. Yossi Leshem, Director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration in Latrun and Dan Alon, Head of the Israeli Ornithological Center. In this manner, Israel joined the ranks of some 90 countries that have already selected their representative national birds.
The Israeli initiative was unique in that the selection was made by the public rather than professionals: 9,500 preschools, 4,000 schools and IDF units participated, while the public was able to vote online and at public venues such as the Safari in Ramat Gan and the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem
Ten species of birds were selected after meeting the criteria, such as a requirement that the bird must nest in Israel, its song, color, dispersion area and link to Jewish heritage. The candidates were: the Griffon Vulture, the Barn Owl, the Lesser Kestrel, the Graceful Prinia, the White-throated Kingfisher, the Hoopoe, the Goldfinch, the Bulbul, the Spur-winged Plover and the Palestine Sunbird. A steering committee comprised of public figures and experts was chosen, learning material was prepared and taught in schools and among IDF units, leading media personalities joined the marketing campaign and eventually, at an official ceremony held at the President's Residence, the President of Israel Mr. Shimon Peres declared the Hoopoe as the National Bird of Israel.
Approximately one million people participated in the vote. Public awareness was raised around the issue of safeguarding birds and their habitats. The initiative also won prestigious awards from EFFIE (recognizing effective advertising and marketing) and "The Roaring Lion" (recognizing excellence in public relations and spokesman ship).
The Hoopoe was selected as the National Bird by a majority vote, with the Graceful Prinia coming in second and the Goldfinch third.
Hoopoe - The National Bird of Israel
The Hoopoe is a beautiful bird noted for its orange "crown" of feathers. It is orange in color, with shades of black and white on its wings and tail, making its flight comparable to that of a large butterfly. The Hoopoe population is resident in Israel and it nests in holes in tree trunks and vertical walls of homes. Its beak is long, thin and curved and its tongue is long and sticky. The Hoopoe gathers food from the ground with the help of its long beak. Its monotone song, "hood, hood" instilled its Arabic name. In Aramaic it was known as the "mountain carver" because ancient tales tell of the Hoopoe bringing King Solomon the Shamir worm to carve the stone with which to build the Temple.
This is one of the tiniest birds in Israel, weighing only 6.5-7.5 grams. The Graceful Prinia is known for its long tapering tail and short rounded wings. Thanks to its long tail and short wings it is able to twist quickly among low shrubs. The Graceful Prinia is extremely common in gardens throughout Israel. These birds live in pairs within their habitat and their Hebrew name, "Pashosh" has become a popular nickname for people who are small and cute. Their incubation period is only 12-13 days long and parents go through two or three nesting cycles within a single spring period. A Graceful Prinia egg weighs less than one gram!
The Goldfinch is one of the most colorful birds in Israel. It is resident in Israel and common along the Mediterranean Sea coast, spreading to the Negev and Arava areas as well. The Goldfinch has a short thick beak, suited to cracking the seeds it extracts from thorny plants, mainly from the aster family, such as Mediterranean milk thistles, Syrian thistles and scolymus. Outside the nesting season Goldfinches band into flocks whose chatter is easily heard. The Goldfinch population has decreased significantly during recent decades as they are hunted and caged with canaries as songbirds and due to decreasing numbers of thorn fields which are destroyed in residential areas.
The Goldfinch nests high up near the treetops. In Arabic it is called the "bride bird" due to its vibrant colors. The Goldfinch's strong link to thorns has made it a symbol of Jesus' suffering in Christian art, appearing in the hands of the young Jesus.
Dr. Yossi Leshem
Tel Aviv University and the Society for the
Protection of Nature in Israel