Utne Blogs > Environment

Promised Land for Ornithologists Chooses National Bird

 by Lisa Gulya


Tags: environment, wildlife and wilderness, birds, Israel, Middle East, The New Republic,

HoopoeIsrael has finally chosen a national bird, 60 years after its founding. (Americans should respect the delay; if we had too hastily selected our own national emblem, we might now have turkeys tattooed on every patriotic bicep.) Israel’s selection process was a feathered frenzy, the New Republic reports, unavoidable in a country that attracts 540 avian species (that’s 500 million specimens) during semi-annual migrations. “We are at the junction of three continents,” says Israeli ornithologist Yossi Leshem. “From a political point of view, this is disastrous, but for birds it is magnificent.” 

The bird that ascended to state symbolism is the hoopoe, which served as the messenger between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, according to the New York Times. (The hoopoe is not kosher, Reuters reports, so the national bird won’t face the disgrace of becoming any Jewish citizen’s dinner.) “It’s a good choice, all in all, a gorgeous bird with a crown-like crest,” writes the New Republic. “Any country would be proud to have it on its telephone cards.”