Wildlife in Palestine with Rana

Rana Hijawi has a passion for wildlife in Palestine. She is a biology graduate from Birzeit University. In 2016 she started an Instagram page where she posts photos of birds and wild flowers. Rana lives in Ramallah and almost daily goes out for a walk with her camera. She easily recognizes all the sounds of the birds and she knows how to capture them on camera.

In this podcast episode I speak to Rana about her passion for wildlife in Palestine.

Bird migration in Palestine

Palestine is on the crossing of three continents and famous for its bird migration route.  About 500 million migrating birds fly over Palestine yearly. At this moment in November there are many birds on their way from Europe to the warmer south. As there are many water sources, mainly springs and some lakes, this is a good place for birds to rest. The air thermals, columns of rising air, help the birds to soar for long distances. They don’t have to use a lot of energy. There are about 350 species of birds that live in Palestine all through the year. In total there have been 470 species of birds recorded.

One of the famous spots for birdwatchers is the Hula lake. The Hula lake is situated north of the Lake of Galilee. This area of Palestine became part of the State of Israel in 1948. Because of the restrictions on movement for Palestinians who live in the military occupied Westbank, Rana does not have access to Israel. She has never been to the Hula lake.

Palestine wildlife and diversity

Despite its small size Palestine has very diverse landscapes. The coastal plain in the West is a flat area close to the sea. The plains get more rain and are green in winter and spring. In the center from north to south is the mountain ridge. This mountain ridge is the result of tectonic plate movement of the Arabian and African plates. The height of the mountains vary between  around 700 and 900 meters. The evenings are cooler here and the air is dryer. On the west side of the mountain ridge there is more rain. On the east side, in the rain shadow, the desert starts. 

Another result of the plate tectonics is the Jordan valley rift, to the east of the mountain ridge. This deep rift contains the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Four hundred meters below sea level. It is situated in a dry, rocky desert landscape.

The diversity in ecosystems makes Palestine an interesting place for a large variety of flora and fauna.

Some of Rana’s favorite birds

Rana tells us in this podcast episode that her passion for birds started with observing the Palestine sunbird. The male has a vibrant blue color while the females and juveniles are grey-brown. They have a long tongue to reach into flowers to feed on nectar. They also eat insects. They have a high, fast, jingling song. In 2015 the Palestinian government declared the Palestine sunbird to be the national bird of the State of Palestine.

Rana also loves the bulbul, officially in English called the white-spectacled bulbul, because of the obvious white rings around their eyes. In Arabic the bulbul has another extension to its name that refers to the yellow feathers under its tail. The bulbul has a black head and a grey body. The singing of the bulbul is very melodious and made one of my friends tell people that “I speak Arabic like the bulbul”



But the king of the birds is the Hoopoe, a very colorful bird with a ‘crown’ of feathers. The hoopoe is called ‘hud hud’ in Arabic. When you hear the sound of this bird, you will realize that either of these names reflects the singing of this bird. The hoopoe is a ground feeder and can be spotted on the land where it looks for insects, reptiles, small frogs and sometimes also seeds and berries.



If you want to follow Rana on instagram go to:  https://www.instagram. com/wildlife.with.rana

Other interesting pages to check out (clickable):

Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (Palestine Nature museum)

Palestine Wild Life Society

The photos below are all made by Rana Hijawi.