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Israeli Fish Farmers Crying Fowl over a New Breed of Immigrants

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The pelicans–whose beaks hold more than their bellies can–are gorging on Israel’s famous pond-bred fish, to the dismay of the farmers that market them. So succulent are the carp, in fact, that about 200 migratory birds apparently have decided to winter in Israel instead of their usual African haunts. All efforts so far to send them on their way have failed.

Firecrackers on the ground and rockets in the sky did not frighten them from their roosts around the fish ponds in the Beit She’an Valley.

The Nature Preserve Authority sought help from the air force, which provided light planes and helicopters. The idea was to herd the pelicans toward the coastal plain over which lie the flight paths of migrating birds.

But the stubborn fowl refuse to leave the source of their nourishment. “The birds have learned quickly and evolved a new strategy,” a kibbutz pilot complained.

“We used to fly around a large flight, corralling them in the air like the cowboys on the plains and herding them where we wanted them, far away from the fish ponds.

“But they caught on to that. Now they scatter into small groups, and we have to fly around each one in small tight circles,” he said.

Local fish farmers dubbed the pelicans sabras, the name applied to native Israelis. That is because “they have big mouths, they are stubborn and don’t scare easily,” one farmer explained.

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