Beautiful species that call the Hula Valley home
Whether they're residents year-round or just stopping by for the winter, here are some incredible species to look for in and around Hula Lake.
With large ponds, lush greenery and mild year-round weather, the Hula Valley is one of Israel's most active hotspots for biodiversity. It's widely acknowledged as one of the most rewarding bird watching sites in the world, but that's not all the region has to offer.
A pink dragonfly lands on a plant in Hula Lake. (Photo: StateofIsrael/Flickr)
As a wetland, Hula Valley attracts waterbirds as well as water buffalo and a special aquatic rodent called a nutria. Take a look at some of the most beautiful animals that reside in the marshy valley.
A positively adorable shorebird of the Mediterranean, spur-winged plovers (also known as spur-winged lapwings) have long legs to wade through the water. They are named for their tiny claw hidden within their wings. If you can't spot these birds by their striking appearance, listen for their amusing "did-he-do-it" call.
Water buffalo were first introduced to the region in the 8th century and have since become a hallmark resident. Populations declined when Hula Lake was drained in the 1950s, but since the wetland area has been rehabilitated, the buffalo have been reintroduced. Now, they are a favorite feature for families and children to seek out in the beautiful landscape of the valley.
Pygmy cormorants can be found in Europe and the Mediterranean, alone or in small groups. In Hula Lake, if you see a group of birds perched along a tree's branches, chances are they're cormorants. They are not easily bothered by other birds or even humans, and may even stay put long enough for you to get a closer look.
Spending its winters in Israel and Africa, the grey heron is a large waterbird with bright, striking eyes. An expert hunter of fish and frogs alike, the grey heron can be spotted along the shore of the lake walking ever so slowly as it stalks its prey.
Perhaps the most easily recognized full-time resident of Hula Lake, white-throated kingfishers are colorful and charismatic, with a "chake-ake-ake-ake" chuckle as their call. Their impressive bills are perfect for catching fish.
Significantly smaller but just as pretty, the common kingfisher (also known as the Eurasian kingfisher) sticks to the reeds close to the lake. A neon blue-and-gold bird about the size of a sparrow, the common kingfisher hovers a few feet above the surface of the water to keep a close eye on fish swimming below.
Greater spotted eagle
With an impressive yellow beak and beautiful spotted wings, the greater spotted eagle is one of the most active birds of prey in the Hula Valley, though it is but one of many raptors that travel through the region in autumn and winter.
A nutria walks through the grassy shore of Hula Lake in the early morning hours. (Photo: Or Hiltch/Flickr)
Also known as coypu, this veggie-loving rodent and talented swimmer originally hails from South America. It looks like a cross between a beaver and a rat, only with webbed hind feet and a very ... memorable ... smile.
A nutria shows off its bright red-orange teeth on the shore of Lake Hula. (Photo: Or Hiltch/Flickr)
No, that nutria isn't wearing lipstick! The orange incisors take on a rusty color because, well, they've rusted! Nutria teeth have a high iron content so they can power through any kind of plant, no matter the fiber content.
Great white pelicans
One of the valley's most numerous migratory visitors, the great white pelican is an expert flyer, paddler and fisher. It's one of the largest species of pelicans, second to the Dalmatian pelican, so it's easy to see when it's alone – but during migration, you'll likely see these fellas in huge groups that skim the water's surface.
One of the most graceful seabirds, the common tern breeds in the Hula Valley. Their nests can be found on mounds within the lake, while the parents spend their days busily catching small fish for the little chicks.
Turtles enjoy sunbathing in Hula Lake. (Photo: David King/Flickr)
Representing the Reptilia class at Hula Valley are numerous turtles, who happily swim and deftly navigate the freshwater habitat. Turtles often climb up out of the water to relax for the afternoon, so visitors can look for them on plants and branches that jut out from the lake's surface.
Black-crowned night heron
A black-crowned night heron (Photo: Marcel Holyoak/Flickr)
An intriguing bird with an ominous name, the black-crowned night heron lives throughout Eurasia and is a year-round resident of Hula Lake. This little guy is quite different from his cousin, the grey heron. With practically no neck and a much stockier body, it's easy to tell them apart. Its smaller build allows the night heron to situate itself on a perch near the water.
A northern shoveler floats in the water of Hula Lake, sporting its unusual beak. (Photo: Sergey Yeliseev/Flickr)
A bird with an unforgettable beak, the northern shoveler lives all throughout the world. The shoveler uses its spade-shaped bill to sift through the water for aquatic bugs, plankton and tiny crustaceans. They can skim for food right off the top of the water, making lunchtime very convenient indeed.
A mallard duck flies near the shore of Hula Lake. (Photo: Stephen Harper/Flickr)
Another duck that ranges throughout the world and can also be found in the Hula Valley is the easily recognizable mallard duck. Though similar in coloration, a glimpse at the bill is enough to tell the mallards apart from the shovelers.
Even monarch butterflies migrate through the Hula Valley! (Photo: Avital Pinnick/Flickr)
The African Monarch is a relatively new visitor to Hula Lake now that the plants have taken root for good. It seems that with all the talk about avian migration, these winged beauties thought they'd see for themselves what the fuss was about!
A little egret makes an elegant flight through Hula Valley. (Photo: David King/Flickr)
A year-round tenant of the Hula Valley, the little egret may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Its bright white plumage offers a striking contrast for its black beak and legs.
A bluethroat flycatcher forages through the ground in Hula Valley. (Photo: Neta Bartal/Flickr)
From behind, this tiny flycatcher blends into the foliage. But as soon as you catch a glimpse of the bright blue, white and orange plumage on the breast of this little bird, you'll recognize him immediately.
Cranes call out through the mist in Hula Valley (Photo: Uzi Yachin/Flickr)
Our list would not be complete with the most famous of Hula's residents, the Eurasian crane. They show up in the hundred-thousands to enjoy the spoils of the wetland – including some of the local crops. Luckily, the cranes can now find food at tractors that pull snacks through the nature reserve, a special treat just for the birds.
Hula painted frog
Last but certainly not least, the Hula painted frog is a species worth celebrating: back from the brink of extinction, this spotted frog is hard to spot – but deep within the dense vegetation, he's thriving once again.
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Related Topics: Animals