Nature of Israel
The beginning of the month of Nissan (this year corresponding to 23rd March 2023) marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. For many hundreds of years, Jews have made a special declaration of thanks and praise to God in this season, on seeing the blossom of fruit trees.
Blessed are You our God, King of the Universe, Who has made nothing lacking in His world, and created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees to give mankind pleasure.
I don’t think anyone would argue with me were I to say that the male sunbird is one of the most beautiful birds with which Israel is blessed. To see its shiny metallic-blue plumage glinting in the sun, as it feasts on nectar, is truly a joy to behold – a real pleasure.
In the election for Israel’s national bird, the sunbird fared well, but ultimately lost out to the hoopoe, which apparently was more popular; better liked by most Israelis, but for me the sunbird is far more attractive.
The Palestine sunbird, to give it its full title (also known as the Cinnyris osea), is a very tiny bird, about 10cm long and weighing just 7g, which is about the same weight as a pencil, or three teaspoons of flour. Even by bird standards the sunbird is something of a featherweight but its flight is so much better than the flight of a pencil or teaspoons of flour. It hovers near the blossom or, more often, stands alongside it, and uses its long downward curving beak to extract nectar from it. The shape of the beak is perfectly designed for this purpose. As well as nectar from flowers they’ll eat insects too – a true omnivore.
We see the sunbirds in many places around Israel – they are particularly at home in warm dry climates and like to live in woodland, scrubland, orchards and gardens. They’re also to be found in many other countries in the Middle East.
We see both the bright blue male and the plain brown female; the female being a little smaller than the male. As is quite common with birds, it’s the male that is the more colorful of the pair. Why should that be? It seems that the more colorful the male is, the more likely he is to be selected by the female as a strong and healthy mate. But mate selection could work the other way too – with a dull male selecting a brightly colorful and attractive female. So why is it that the males are the more striking? Perhaps because, more often than not, it’s the female that sits on the eggs and stays at home with the young chicks. If she were too brightly colored, predators would see her easily and she and her young would be sitting ducks. Far better that she’s the dull one and the male, is the flamboyant beauty. After all, he can defend himself from attack by scampering, unhampered by responsibilities of guarding the young.
So, lookout for the beautiful sunbirds and other birds and animals, as well as the wonderful trees that surround us, and enjoy them all. They’ve been given to us, to give pleasure to us. And what a pleasure they are!