Bulletin 4 - March 1978:  -- New to Arabia

Bird Watching -- New to Arabia

by Mark Hollingworth

Olive-Backed Pipit (Anthus Hodgsoni) in Abu Dhabi UAE

On 23rd November, 1977, there was considerable arrival of migrants in Abu Dhabi, which coincided with northerly winds and overcast conditions. Amongst the migrants were three Olive-Backed Pipits (Anthus Hodgsoni), which were in the British Embassy compound for approximately one hour. David Corfield and I had extremely good views of them during this period before they finally flew off strongly in an easterly direction.


A typical pipit, similar in shape and size to Red-Throated Pipit. Bill horn at tip, pink at base particularly on lower mandible. Bill quite heavy at base. Forehead olive green. Crown olive green finely streaked black. Lores olive green. Eye black. Conspicuous white supercilliary starting from front of eye and terminating on cheek, supercilliary thickest over eye. Cheeks olive green. Throat buffy. Long thin black moustachial stripe. Chest and upper belly white with conspicuous heavy black streaky spots, heaviest at centre of upper chest. Lower belly and underparts white. Flanks buffy unstreaked. Legs pale pink. Nape and upper back warm olive green unstreaked. Lower back slightly browner with fine long brown streaks. Rump olive brown. Tail greyish with white outer tail feathers. Median coverts olive green with white edges forming a conspicuous wingbar. Greater coverts darker olive green with buffy edges forming a less conspicuous second wingbar. Tertials grey. Secondaries and primaries grey/olive green with primaries reaching onto upper third of tail.

Call a wheezy "Psssssss", similar in quality to Red-Throated Pipit but shorter and more "crestlike".

The call drew our attention as they dropped out of a tree and landed in long grass in the garden. They walked and foraged in typical pipit manner. When flushed (not by us) they flew into a nearby tree and thence off strongly eastwards.

Associated Occurrences

The range of the Olive-backed Pipit embraces North East Russia, East Asia, India, China, Hainan, Taiwan. Its nearest breeding point is in East Afghanistan (Safedkoh), The species has been recorded as far west as the United Kingdom, where there have been nine records from 1958 to 1976.

The arrival of the Olive-backed Pipit coincided with a broad arrival in November of a number of other northern migrants including Brambling (Fringilla Motifringilla), three Linnets (Acanthus Cannabina), up to twenty-five Siskins (Carduelis Spinus), up to fifty Spanish Sparrows (Passer Hispaniolensis) and over two hundred Corn Buntings (Emberiza Calandra). Brambling, linnet and siskin have never been previously recorded in the UAE. The Spanish Sparrows and Corn Buntings were recorded in unprecedented numbers.

All these records refer to birds seen on Abu Dhabi Island.

  1. F Hue and R Detchecopar, 1970. Les Oiseaux du proche et du Moyen Orient. Paris.
  2. King, Woodcock and Dickinson. 1975. A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia. London.
  3. Wallance D.I.M., 1977. "Rare Birds in Great Britain, 1976. Brit Birds 70 : 438.
MA Hollingworth
POBox 948
Abu Dhabi


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