Saturday, February 7, 2009

Palestine as Ideal Place for Migratory Birds

By: Khalid Abu Fayyad

Palestine is located at a junction of three continents. It is not only a land bridge linking Asia, Africa and Europe but also deemed as a bottleneck and good route for the migrating birds from Africa to Europe and vice versa.

The total land area of Palestine is very small and does not exceed 27027 km2. Nevertheless, it contains various and numerous species of birds compared to those of big countries. Palestinian Wildlife Society (PWLS) has documented the existence of 520 species of birds in Palestine. Four hundred of such species are migratory birds while 120 are residential and breeding birds. The PWLS also estimated the number of migratory birds at 500 million birds coming to Palestine from Europe to stay in Palestine for some times before continuing their trip to Africa.

Migratory birds stay in Palestine for several days or weeks and sometimes for several months. For instance, the prey birds such as White Stork and European Honey-buzzard stay for some days or weeks while other prey birds such as Lesser Kestrel, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Egyptian Vulture remain for several months.

Birds migrate from their permanent residence area in Europe to Africa owing to the European cold weather. They depart Europe to African warm weather. On their way to Africa, birds land in Palestine, which has a nicely moderate weather, to stay for some time. After that, some birds do not prefer to leave Palestine while others continue the trip towards Africa making it twice a year where they start returning back to their permanent residence in Europe when the weather gets warmer.

Palestine is a perfect route for migratory birds and most of migratory birds exist at three major areas: Jordan Valley (El Aghwar), Costal Area (Mediterranean Sea Coast and Gaza Valley) and Mountainous areas (Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron mountains).

Al Aghwar is an unprecedented area in the world. It is such an adorable area to birds. It is the lowest area in world and it is considered as the most suitable environment for endangered birds locally, nationally and internationally. As a result of the presence of Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, springs and artificial ponds, a lot of Plants that grow on salinity are available in this area. In addition, different types of insects grow permanently due to availability of some soil components in which the insects need to live. Moreover, this special place makes many birds such as White Stork, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, and Black-winged Stilt compete with each other to migrate to El Aghwar area.

However, the coastal area that consists basically of Gaza Valley is not less important than El Aghwar area. Gaza Valley is the first nature reserve in Palestine, supported internationally, and the only natural wetlands area in Gaza. The length of the valley is about 160km and its width is 200 m making it the largest and longest Valley in Palestine.

The sandy dunes and salt water which resulted in connecting the valley with the Mediterranean Sea created an ideal condition for growing plants and wildlife in general and reptiles in particular. In addition, the valley is a home to dozens species of fish, alga, crustaceans, and mollusks which is a varied and vital food source for many kinds of residential and migratory birds such as ducks, Glaucous Gull, Blackbird, Blackcap and Greater Sandplover.

Besides, mountainous areas are also vital areas for birds. They are characterized by raising 900 m above sea level and having dense natural jungles as well as a varied wildlife. Moreover, birds benefit from characteristics of those areas in their migration which, occurs during the night or the day.

Thanks to Allah, the God of the worlds, for granting us such a unique and vital location with various and numerous birds. This requires from us protecting and conserving these birds from some greedy people. Those people want to take advantage of such birds only for themselves and deprive other people of enjoying them. The excessive and unregulated hunting activities by people endangered some species of birds such as Ostrich and Brown Fish Owl. Thus, those wrong behaviors necessitate raising public awareness towards the importance and the aesthetic values of birds in order to enable all people to live in a beautiful environment with the impressive colors, sounds and movements of birds.

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