Today we are going to look at migrating birds, specifically pelicans. And we will visit the best places at Emek Hefer: Viker Lookout and Agamon Hefer. Let’s begin!
Note: if you want to find additional info about animals and wildlife, then check out Zoos and Aquariums in Israel.
Table of Contents
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Are There Migrating Pelicans Right Now?
Update: since I saw pelicans near Maagan Michael and in Agamon Hula, we decided to visit Viker Lookout and Agamon Hefer. On 08.10.2021 we visited both places and there were no pelicans. We saw a small pack landing in a nearby closed pool, but it is still not the peak of the pelican migration.
Let’s start with the most common question: when and where can we see migrating birds? Bird migration takes place during fall and spring (usually March – April and October – November). And the best way to find out whether pelicans are visiting is by checking social media. Here are several useful links:
- Viker Lookout location on Instagram and Viker Lookout tag on Instagram– scroll down to most recent posts and check the dates.
- Agamon Hefer location on Instagram and Agamon Hefer tag on Instagram – scroll down to most recent posts and check the dates.
- Pelicans tag on Instagram – scroll down to most recent posts and check the locations and the dates.
- Agamon Hula constantly updates their Facebook page. And if there are pelicans at Agamon Hula, then there is a high chance they are also staying at other places in Israel.
Where Do Pelicans Love To Stay?
When pelicans migrate, they are looking for shelter and food. Thus they prefer ponds with fish. Their favorite places in Emek Hefer are Viker Lookout and Agamon Hefer. There are several other places in northern Israel where pelicans love to stay, and they are Agamon Hula, Hula Nature Reserve, Ein Afek, and Maagan Michael.
Up to 2020, there was pelican feeding at Viker Lookout. But in 2020, pelican feeding moved to Agamon Hula. As a result, only a few pelicans stayed at Viker Lookout. This is the reason I suggest checking social media and not visiting the usual places.
The Common Pelican
The weight of the common pelican is 8 – 11 kg and has a wingspan of 2.5 – 3 meters. That makes them the largest migrating bird that crosses Israel. And around 40,000 pelicans fly over Israel twice a year, in Spring and Autumn.
If you have been following my blog for some time, you know that Israel is a good place for bird lovers. That is because Israel lies on the migration path of many birds (you can read more about bird migration at Bird Ringing at Ein Afek).
Hefer Valley is part of the Sharon area in the coastal central plane of Israel. Big parts of Hefer valley are dedicated to agriculture. And farmers understood many years ago that millions of migrating birds could hurt agriculture. For example, a pelican eats 1 kg of fish a day. And a squadron of five thousand pelicans eats 5 tons of fish per day.
As a result, they created feeding places for birds. This form of “tax” is beneficial for both sides. Birds know where they can find food, and other fields and fish tanks remain not affected. Moreover, if the feeding place becomes a tourist attraction, tourists pay for the food (a win-win situation). For example, when you enter Agamon Hula, you pay several NIS for the cranes’ project. The money goes to buy corn for hundreds of thousands of migrating cranes.
Map of the area:
There are two main pelican feeding places in Israel. The first one is at Agamon Hula, and the second one is at Viker Lookout.
Viker Lookout (named after the Viker family that donated the money) is a hidden lookout point at Emek Hefer. It is one of the best places in Israel to watch pelican migration. And I found out about it only several years ago through social media. Since then, I have visited this area several times, and now I will share my findings.
Free entrance. Well, actually, there is no entrance. Several dirt roads are passing through the area. And this leads me to the next question.
I wrote a hidden lookout point because, during my first visit, there were no clear instructions on how to get there. And even today, when you enter Viker lookout into Waze, it will almost lead you there. You will end up at the beginning of a dirt road (end of road #5711). You need to continue on the dirt road till you reach a three-way junction. On the T intersection, you should turn left, and after about 1 km, you will see the lookout to your right. See the map above.
Visiting Viker Lookout
My first visit was in the middle of October 2017. We arrived around 9:30 am, quite late, but there were still many pelicans.
As you can see, there is no big parking lot. Thus, people park cars along the roads. Therefore if you arrive late, there is a big chance there will be no nearby parking. Moreover, most pelicans that stay here for the night will also leave. Therefore, I suggest visiting early.
If you come during migration peak, then after climbing to the lookout you will see thousands of pelicans.
Many of them were already leaving on their way to Africa.
And many people enjoyed the view:
Of course, there are many photographers 🙂
There is a viewpoint on the other side of the pool. And what I found during all my visits is that you will be closer to the pelicans on the other side. You can either walk there or drive there.
The view from the other side:
The other side there is fully covered with a fence, with half a dozen holes, that you can photograph through.
The second visit in 2017 was at the beginning of November. And there were much fewer pelicans. As you can see, there are about the same number of cormorants as pelicans.
Another shot from the other side:
I have visited on 13 of October 2018, and there were quite many pelicans. But it was not the peak.
Mid October seems like the best time to visit, but this can be affected by climate and other factors. Therefore I suggest following relevant channels on social media, to know the exact dates.
Note: I took all the photos above with Tamron 200-500 mm on Nikon D610.
Agamon Hefer is located not far from Viker Lookout (see map at the beginning of this post). And I created a dedicated post for Agamon Hefer. In this scope, though I visited Agamon Hefer several times, I never saw pelican there. Even during the migration season.
And since we are traveling along the Alexander River, I want to mention another animal-related attraction. It is Turtle Bridge at Alexander River, the place to see Nile Softshell Turtles.
The best places are Agamon Hula and Viker Lookout.
Mid October is usually the best time to visit, but this can be affected by climate and other factors. Therefore I suggest following relevant channels on social media, to know the exact dates.
The best way to know is by checking social media. On Instagram, you can check a tag or a location. Here is the link to the Viker lookout location on Instagram. Check the most recent posts, and if you see many recent photos of pelicans, they are probably there.
Since pelicans are migrating, they are only looking for places to sleep. Thus, the best time to see them is either in the morning (best before 9 am) or in the evening (starting from an hour before sunset).
Viker lookout is one of the best places in Israel to watch pelican migration. And it is free. The only downside is the road. Or actually, the lack of road. My tip would be not to wash the car before visiting. Because of the dirt road, you will need to wash it after your visit.
Have you ever been to Viker lookout? And what about Agamon Hefer? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.