Israel chooses a national bird
By BETH MARLOWE-Associated Press Writer-May 29, 2008
After a contest that ruffled a few feathers, Israel has chosen it's national bird.
At a ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, Israel's appropriately dovish President Shimon Peres announced that the hoopoe is now the ornithological symbol of the country.
But the hoopoe, identified by its long beak and red and black crest, was a relatively tame choice.
In a nationwide vote, more than 150,000 Israelis cast ballots for one of ten native birds, according to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which launched the national campaign to get the public interested in protecting birds.
A few nominees caused a flap.
A bird listed on the ballot as the Yellow Tufted Sunbird had some Israelis wondering if it was the best choice for their national symbol. Why? Its more common name is the Palestinian Sunbird.
"You can understand that the name makes a big difference for Israelis," said Dan Alon, the director of the Israel Ornithological Society and a driving force behind the elections.
Patriotic Israelis deemed the Griffin Vulture too violent to represent the state, though left-wingers called it appropriate.
Other Israelis were reluctant to vote for the Barn Owl because some Arab cultures consider it bad luck. With more than a million people, Arabs make up nearly 20 percent of Israel's population.
The hoopoe and two other birds were in a close race to win the title, said Alon. He would not say which birds took second and third place.
Ornithologist Amir Balaban, who runs the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, described the hoopoe as a beautiful, native bird that is monogamous and takes good care of its children.
The public's vote counted for 75 percent of the decision, while a panel of Israeli poets, politicians and academics got 25 percent of the vote.
The election was timed to coincide with Israel's 60th birthday, and many agreed it was about time the country had a national bird.
"We're moving into our adulthood," Balaban said. "As an adult state we should be working on protecting our environment." (Source)