In 2008, as part of the celebrations surrounding 60 years of independence of Israel, it was decided that Israel should have a national bird. If the U.S. has a national bird, and even most of the States of the U.S. have a national bird, how can Israel stay behind? So Israel chose and the winner was announced by President Peres to be the Hoopoe (Duchifat in Hebrew).
I am not sure it is a good idea delving too much into the reasons why Israel (or any nation for that matter) should have a national bird. National Pride? Taking the mind of people off the real issues that Israel should be dealing with? Or maybe the characteristics of the hoopoe should remind us of who we are, what we are and maybe even of how we behave? I am wondering what religious people thought of our choice, because the hoopoe is mentioned in the Bible as being unclean and forbidden food (not kosher). Looking at the hoopoe, it really appears it was chosen only for its beauty, and maybe because it is far from common and not found widely in Israel.
But, sitting this week in my garden, observing the life going on there, I rapidly came to the conclusion that we made the wrong choice. The real national bird has to be the Myna.
I observed in my garden a group of mynas harassing a kestrel couple that has been nesting under my roof for 15 years and now have to fight to keep the mynas out of their home and from killing their offspring that is just now about to take wing for the first time. Luckily, the kestrels are strong birds not easily bullied into giving up their home and they (for now at least) succeeded in staving off the attacks of the mynas, even though there sometimes were many and they are very aggressive.
So I decided to look up these birds and try to understand what moves them. While reading about the myna, I was amazed that the Israelis that had bothered to vote for the National Bird of Israel, did not choose the Myna! Reading the behavioral characteristics of this birds, you only need to replace the word “myna” with “Israeli” to learn more about Israel and Israelis then you will learn in most (government sponsored) textbooks.
The myna is a bird of the starling family with origins mostly in South Asia (India). According to Wikipedia it has very strong territorial instincts and adapts well to urban environments. The speed at which the myna spreads has concerned even responsible United Nations Agencies and it is considered one of the most invasive species on earth and counts among the species with the most effect on biodiversity.
The myna was originally brought to Israel as a songbird. However, it escaped and thrived here and is now more and more common all over.
Anyone who has ever seen the myna will definitely remember its behavior. It is very, very loud, extremely aggressive towards other birds and will take over their nests and kill the offspring of local birds and prevent them from remaining in their own habitat. Once established in the “conquered” area they will defend it staunchly against anything and anybody.
So why is the myna not our National Bird? Is the choice definite and forever, or are changes possible and are “elections” held at regular intervals?
I haven’t really been able to find out, but I think we should seriously reconsider the choice of the Hoopoe, a shy, quiet bird, beautiful but unpretentious, and choose the Myna.
It is a new immigrant that thrives extremely well in almost all areas of Israel. It is very noisy, very rude, and very aggressive, it is intensely busy with harassing the original inhabitants, killing their offspring, destroying their nests or occupying them by themselves and it will not allow anyone but their own to settle the land.
I vote for the Myna as the New National Bird of Israel.