Bulletin 12 - November 1980: The Autumn Bird Migration

The Autumn Bird Migration

by Bish Brown

Bird species remaining in Abu Dhabi throughout the year are very few and this leads many people to believe there are not many birds in the UAE. Some of those that can be seen most days are palm dove, house sparrow, rose ringed parakeet, common and bank mynah's hoopoe lark, Kentish plover, graceful warbler, Socotra cormorant, and osprey. Nests and young of these birds have been recorded by various observers over a number of years, but records are very sparse.

In other parts of the UAE in the many differing types of habitat available, resident birds include Egyptian vulture and brown-necked raven near Al Ain, and gray francolin, Indian roller, bee-eater, little green bee-eater, pale crag martin, and Indian house crow in the Northern Emirates and East Coast.

It is during the autumn and spring migrations that the bird life is much richer than perhaps many people appreciate. Over 300 species have been recorded in the UAE over the past 15 years or so (see "List of Birds Recorded in the UAE" by Mrs. F.E. Warr September 1980). Our own records show 261 since the Group started keeping records in 1976. Mark Hollingworth was able to identify 14 new species in 1977/78 by systematic observations around the area.

The first autumn migrants began appearing in September, the numbers increasing in October through to the end of November, when the main stream of birds will have passed. Many of the birds are moving from summer breeding grounds in central Asia to winter in the warmer areas of Arabia and East Africa. Abu Dhabi with all its recently planted greenery now affords sanctuary to many of these migrants. Waders and other shore birds are attracted by the wealth of food provided by the sewage farm outfalls onto the mud flats of the eastern lagoon. Regretfully, progress is changing this manmade habitat by dredging, but it will be interesting to see how the changes affect the birds.

The routes taken by birds may mean that some migrants will not touch Abu Dhabi, but instead fly over the desert area or the many offshore islands, offshore complexes and drilling rigs. Occasionally they will be seen reflected in flares at night or heard passing overhead. We have had reports (pelican sp on board drilling rig HAKURYU IV in January 1980) but the main wealth of information is usually not recorded. The migration patterns and breeding habits of birds in the Gulf region are not very well documented, so every record, even of the commonest species, could be a valuable piece of the story. Most of the recording so far in the Gulf has been done by enthusiastic amateurs.

Anyone with an interest in birds can become a recorder, but it will not initially be possible to identify every bird seen. It is essential that written notes are kept for unidentified species or any species that may be new or unfamiliar in the area. There are many good books to assist identification of local birds, many quite inexpensive. Binoculars are readily available and good value (from a recognized manufacturer) in Abu Dhabi/Dubai.

We ask you all to take part in this project by putting your observations on a record form included in this issue or on a plain piece of A4 paper. We see the assistance particularly of anyone living and/or working offshore or in desert locations.


"The Birds of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East" by Heinzel, Fitter and Parslow. Published by Collins at L3.

"Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa" Chief Editor Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press at L30 per volume. (Seven volumes planned) Volume 1 Ostrich to Ducks. Volume 2 Hawks to Bustards.


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