My favourite sound of Jerusalem, and one that has me excitedly running to the window, is the drilling of the Syrian Woodpecker in the trees beyond our house. If I am quiet and fairly still, I can often spot the woodpecker high up the trunk of the tree, beak poised and ready to drill. It is a smaller bird than I imagined, but very distinctive with a small red tuft of feathers on the top of its head and a black and white feathered body. A few glimpses are normally all I get, as it is easily scared away and takes flight if I try and get closer. This is exactly like it but I’m still trying to get my own photo!
Now I am not a bird person. Back in the UK I was aware of sparrows and crows, maybe a robin at Christmas, and that was where my interest stopped. I still wouldn’t put myself in the active birdwatcher category but there is something so exotic and enchanting about the local birds here that I am quite enthralled.
I have also got an affection for the Palestine Sunbird. This is a tiny little thing, weighing only between 6-8g. The males are beautifully decked out with dark bluey-green feathers, a thin and pointed long beak for getting nectar from the flowers and wings that move at lightening speed. They appear to hover as is they are floating on the air. Their movement and flightiness makes it almost impossible to get a good photo of these birds in action and again I can’t take credit for the lovely photo below. Disappointingly, and as is often the way in nature, the female is a drab little soul with brown feathers.
The Palestine Sunbird is native to the Middle East and is the only bird with ‘Palestine’ in its name. It was adopted by the Palestinian Authority as the official bird of Palestine in 2015 and since 2018 has been used as an emblem on exported goods.
For some it is a symbol of national pride and even an opportunity for peaceful resistance to the occupation. Khaled Jarrar is a Palestinian artist from Ramallah who became famous for using the Palestine sunbird to design postage and passport stamps for the State of Palestine. This made international headlines when he started stamping foreign travellers passports with his ‘State of Palestine’ stamp, causing some to have their passports invalidated when they tried to leave Israel.
Another bird I particularly like, is the Eurasian Jay. I know nothing about it, I just like the look of it with its flashy wing feathers. For me, the birds have not so much been about the birds themselves but more about taking notice. Stopping to hear the noises they make and watching their endless comings and goings. Each one going about its business busily, often sharing the same tree. I am sure there is a metaphor for peace there somewhere. Or maybe it’s best to leave the birds out of it. Just nature. Being pure. To be enjoyed by all!