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  • Photograph of Striated Caracara

    A fine image of the small Sand Partridge in the Arava Valley near Eilat by Dave Barnes.

    ISRAEL

    Best Wildlife in Israel

    Mammals
    Golden Jackal, Nubian Ibex, Dorcas and Mountain Gazelles, and Rock Hyrax. Also a chance of Jungle Cat, Indian Crested Porcupine and Arabian Oryx (reintroduced).

    Birds

    Specialities
    Sand Partridge, Pygmy Cormorant, Western Reef Egret, Macqueen’s (Houbara) Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, Armenian and Great Black-headed Gulls, Lichtenstein’s and Spotted Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, Mourning Wheatear, Blackstart, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Tristram’s Starling, Desert Finch and Dead Sea Sparrow. Also a chance of Black Francolin, Brown Booby, Striated Heron, Saker Falcon, White-eyed Gull, Crowned and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Hume’s Owl, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Pallid Scops Owl, Egyptian and Nubian Nightjars, Bar-tailed, Dunn’s, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed, Temminck’s and Thick-billed Larks, Arabian, Cyprus and (Asian) Desert Warblers, Cyprus Pied and Hooded Wheatears, Cinereous and Striolated Buntings, Sinai Rosefinch, Crimson-winged Finch and Syrian Serin, and an outside chance of outstanding Western Palearctic rarities such as Caspian Plover, Oriental Skylark, Black Bush Robin and Grey Hypocolius.

    Others
    Greater Flamingo, Great White Pelican, and (Eastern) Imperial, Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Steppe Eagles, and, as well as Chukar, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, White and Black Storks, Osprey, (Eurasian) Griffon Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Baillon’s, Corn, Little and Spotted Crakes, Purple Swamphen, Common Crane, Spur-winged Plover, Black-winged Stilt and other shorebirds, Slender-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Laughing Dove, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Pied and White-throated Kingfishers, Little Green Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Syrian Woodpecker, shrikes including Masked, Brown-necked and Fan-tailed Ravens, Bimaculated, Desert and Greater Short-toed Larks, Rock Martin, Sombre Tit, (Western) Rock Nuthatch, White-spectacled Bulbul, Scrub Warbler, Graceful Prinia, (Eastern) Bonelli’s, (Eastern) Olivaceous, (Eastern) Orphean, Ruppell’s, Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers, Collared and Semicollared Flycatchers, (Eastern) Black-eared, Desert, Finsch’s, Isabelline and White-crowned Black Wheatears, Bluethroat, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes, Palestine Sunbird, pipits including Long-billed, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Trumpeter Finch and Spanish Sparrow. Also a chance of Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Teal, Egyptian Vulture, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Rufous Bush Chat, and later in spring than the peak time which this account deals with, marsh terns, Blue-cheeked and European Bee-eaters, and European Roller.

    Plants
    There are about 2800 species of flowering plant in Israel, a remarkable total for such a small and mainly arid country. They include about 200 ‘bulb’ species including many superb irises and the top places to look for them include the Negev Desert, and Mounts Hermon and Gilboa.

    Other Natural Wonders in Israel

    The Dead Sea
    At about 400 m (1300 ft) below sea level the shoreline of this inland lake is the lowest land in the world. The water in the lake is six times saltier than sea water.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Israel

    Best Times for Wildlife in Israel

    Spring bird migration usually lasts from March to May, and peaks from mid-March to early April, which also happens to be the best time to look for flowers. During March it is also possible to see some lingering winter bird visitors. Autumn bird migration usually lasts from September to November. During the northern winter December to February is the best time for birds.

    Recommended Books etc. for Israel

    Birds of the Middle East by R Porter and S Aspinall. Helm, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    The Birds of Israel by H Shirihai. PUP, 1996.

    A Guide to the Birding Hot-Spots of Southern Israel by H Shirihai et al. Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, 2000.

    A Guide to the Birding Hot-Spots of Northern Israel by H Shirihai et al. Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, 2000.

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    Mammals of Britain and Europe by D McDonald and P Barrett. Collins, 2005.


    Apps etc.

    eGuide to Birds of the Middle East.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in the Middle East and Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Israel

    Many trip reports, some for Israel, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Israel. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Israel' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Israel

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Israel

    Some Organized Tours to Israel

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and they are popular with people with partners with different interests. Individuals, partners and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more for a custom tour than an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours to Israel include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.