KEY SPECIES

Persian Shearwater

May be seen from any East Coast watch point throughout the year, though scarce from December to February. Fujairah Port Beach has been one of the most reliable locations, but construction there can make access difficult. Also try from one of the headlands at Ra's Dibba. The best way to see this species up close is to join one of  the pelagic trips from Khor Kalba. See the Pelagics link for more details about these.

From land, a telescope is needed; if you locate an offshore feeding group of terns, look for Persian Shearwaters swimming and flying around the group.

 

Socotra Cormorant

A common near-endemic, particularly numerous on the west coast. The Dubai Creek normally holds a few birds between the sea and Dubai Creek Park. The best stretch of coast to see large numbers offshore is between Umm al-Qaiwain Breakwater and Al Jazirah Khor/Ra's al-Khaimah. The best bet here is to try the beach at Umm al-Qaiwain early in the morning.

Offshore Abu Dhabi is also good , for example off Marina Mall and Emirates Palace but numbers tend to be small and most birds immature.

On the East Coast, a few can normally be seen between Dibb'a and Kalba Corniche, but be aware of Great Cormorants which are also seen here all year. Look for Socotra Cormorant on the large buoys off Fujairah Port Beach, although they are often quite distant. Numbers are increasing here, with flocks of over hundred sometimes present.

 

INDIAN POND HERON

A common, but localized winter visitor to  Khor Kalba mangroves from late August to May, where they were easy to see at low tide. This species is a lot less secretive than it's cousin the Squacco Heron, who has never been recorded at Khor Kalba. This site has no access since summer 2012, except on the bridge, and Indian Pond Herons can sometimes be seen from here feeding on the mudflats, if you have a good telescope.

This species can also turn up away from Khor Kalba; most often recorded at  Safa Park; at Al Warsan Lakes (where Squacco Herons are much more common) and Wamm Farms.

 

CRESTED HONEY BUZZARD

Uncommon passage migrant & winter visitor, but apparently increasing and sometimes recorded in mid-summer. Best sites are on Abu Dhabi Island where several birds are wintering every year, particularly Mushrif Palace Gardens and the surrounding gardens.

Another reliable site in Dubai during winter is Mushrif National Park. Watch for raptors at the large car-park located at 25.214628N , 55.450181E; it is best to visit mid-morning.

This species has also proven to be semi-regular at Hamraniyah Fields in the far north and in the greater Dubai area, in Al Ain it seems Ain al-Fayda has a few wintering birds; it also winters in some years in the plantations on Sila'a Peninsula in the far west.

 

EASTERN IMPERIAL EAGLE

A scarce but regular winter visitor. Usually first-winter birds are seen. The single best location is Ra's al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai from November until March; watch the sky from outside one of the two hides: Mangrove Hide and Flamingo Hide.
Also fairly regular in the 
Saih al Salam area.

 

SOOTY FALCON

Rare and endangered breeder in the far west of Abu Dhabi Emirate, with regular nesting only on offshore islands from May until September. Virtually all of these are inaccessible to visitors. The species formerly bred on Delma Island but is unlikely to still do; however this is currently the only accessible location for visiting birders, with a regular ferry service.

Sooty Falcons can possibly be seen from the tip of Sila'a Peninsula from June/July to September, but as few birders ever visit this far west in the hot summer months this has not been confirmed. Another possibility would be a wandering bird from Oman (where it is still easy to see, for example near Muscat) on the east coast.

 

BARBARY FALCON

An increasingly rare breeding bird of the Hajar Mountains. One of the more consistent sites is the Green Mubazzarah around the base of Jebel Hafit as well as at the summit of Jebel Hafit and hunting over Zakher Lake. Patience is needed.

 

CRAB-PLOVER

Found throughout the year, though scarce from May to July.

The single best site , by some margin, is Khor al-Beida, but with some access problems and development it can be a tricky site to visit. For access, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

Regular on Abu Dhabi Island in small numbers, but a visitor is probably not guaranteed a sighting here and the birds are often distant. Also seen regularly in Al Jazirah Khor (search with a scope from the large sign above the roundabout at 25.719312N , 55.860869E).
Occasionally seen along the east coast, particularly flying offshore along the Fujairah/Kalba coastline but, again, this is a long shot.

 

CREAM-COLOURED COURSER

Present throughout the year. The best site is the Ghantoot Polo Club, where they can be seen from outside the fence on the grass, although birds become very scarce here from January / February until late spring when they disperse out into the desert to breed. Another good spot is the Al Rafa'a shoreline, especially at the inlet at 25.612732N-55.679091E.

May also found on other grassy areas, such as the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club and in the desert interior, like the Saih al Salam area here; 24.841487 , 55.360368.
Can be hard to find and never guaranteed.

WHITE-TAILED LAPWING

An uncommon passage migrant, and regular breeder at favoured sites. The single best site was the Dubai Pivot Fields, where it was present throughout the year. Now regularly seen in very small numbers at nearby Al Warsan Lakes where it also occasionally breeds.

Normally present and breeding annually at Al Wathba Lake, but access here can be difficult. The same for Al Wasit Reserve.

 

GREAT KNOT

An uncommon, localised passage migrant & winter visitor. The largest concentration of these birds is in the Marawah Marine Protected Area on Marawah Island, but this area is off limits to the casual birder.

The single best site is still Khor al-Beida, but with some access problems it is now a more difficult site to visit.

A new article on Great Knot in the UAE can be viewed here.

PINTAIL SNIPE

A fairly common and widespread passage migrant & winter visitor, albeit in very small numbers.  May be found in any fodder field, extensive area of grass lawns or marshy area, but always outnumbered by Common Snipe. Wamm Farms is probably the only reliable site these days.

SOOTY GULL

A common bird along the East Coast beaches for much of the year but can be tricky to find in October.

May also be found on the west coast, especially the port area in Abu Dhabi and around the mouth of Dubai Creek, although numbers on the Gulf coast are much lower.

 

PALLAS'S GULL (GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULL)

An uncommon but regular winter visitor from early December until March. May be found along both coastlines, but especially on the Gulf coast. Fairly easy to find along the Abu Dhabi Corniche (and numerous loafing on the difficult-to-access Lulu Island in early spring).

Another reliable location is the Umm al-Qaiwain Breakwater. beach and offshore from the beach here; less so along the Ra's Dibba to Khor Kalba beaches and Khor Kalba Harbour, but worth looking for in any large flocks of big gulls.

WHITE-CHEEKED TERN

A common summer breeding species along the west coast. May be found along any patch of coastline, but is rare here after the breeding season. Easily found from April until August flying along, and sometimes over, Abu Dhabi Corniche and off Marina Mall. Common Tern is much scarcer off Abu Dhabi.

Also fairly common along the East Coast beaches, where a few birds over-winter.

Immature and non-breeding plumage can be very similar to Common Tern; look out for the diagnostic dark rump.

 

BRIDLED TERN

A common breeding summer visitor to the west coast, where it breeds on offshore islands from April until August. However, scarce and hard to find outside this period and, even in summer, is often much further offshore than White-cheeked Tern; can be quite difficult to see well.

A common bird along the East Coast, often occurring in huge numbers fishing offshore. Largely absent from November to March, with very few confirmed winter records.

 

SAUNDERS'S TERN

A fairly common breeding species, mainly on offshore islands along the west coast from late March to August. After this period it becomes scarce, with possibly only a few birds wintering.

A passage migrant along the East Coast, both in spring and autumn. The single best site is the Fujairah - Khor Kalba coastline.

Great care must be taken in separating it from near-identical dark-rumped Little Terns, (dark-rumped birds commonly recorded in the UAE). Little Terns normally have white rumps, but dark-rumped birds with two black primaries are often recorded and photographed. Identification problems are particularly acute on the east coast where Little Terns may be quite numerous; in contrast, Little Tern appear to be scarcer along the west coast.

 

LICHTENSTEIN’S SANDGROUSE

A common, but elusive breeding species in the Hajar Mountains. May be found just after dark, drinking in any small waterhole in the mountains. Look for small lakes and ponds in the mountains formed after rain; these sites are sure to have birds come in to drink after dark.

CHESTNUT-BELLIED SANDGROUSE

A declining species, as its desert habitat become increasingly developed. Easiest time to see this species is in the mornings (08.00 to 10.30 hrs) as they come to drink. The Saih al Salam area at 24.841487 , 55.360368 where flocks come in the morning with introduced Pin-tailed Sandgrouse is a reliable spot,  as is Wamm Farms and Lulu Island (if you can get onto it!).

Khor al-Beida dunes in the late afternoons is another site where the birds are often sitting down.

 

PALLID SCOPS OWL

A common, but localized and rather little-known breeding species, mainly of the northern and eastern emirates. The best single location is Mushrif National Park in Dubai, around the mosque after dark. Also possible around Ra's al-Khaimah on plains with extensive Acacia stands.

 

PHARAOH EAGLE-OWL

An uncommon and localised breeding resident of both the mountain foothills and the open sandy deserts with ghaf threes. Probably, about 50 + pairs in the country. The best known site is Qarn Nazwa, but widespread in the Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi deserts.

At Qarn Nazwa, look for the birds coming out just after sunset to sit on the tops of the two low mountains, also often heard calling here.

EGYPTIAN NIGTHJAR

An uncommon passage migrant & winter visitor. Rare breeding visitor. It is particularly fond of fodder fields, where it comes to feed on insects at night. Best wintering site is the Al Wathba Camel Racetrack, but can be absent during cold winters with little insect-activity at night.

 

ARABIAN COLLARED KINGFISHER

The only known site in the UAE are the mangroves at Khor Kalba, where it is easy to see at low tide when it comes out on to the mudflats to feed, often alongside Indian Pond Herons. It is much harder to find at high water. Approximately 30 pairs believed to breed annually. Access is not possible since summer 2012, see the Khor Kalba section under the Sites link for more info.

 

MASKED SHRIKE

An uncommon passage migrant and scarce winter visitor. More regular on Abu Dhabi island than anywhere else. Emirates Palace and Mushrif Palace Gardens are both good locations. In Dubai, look for it in Safa Park and anywhere in Al Mamzar Park. Finding this species is more a matter of luck than strategy.

BLACK-CROWNED SPARROW-LARK

A widespread breeding species of the open desert. Nomadic after the breeding season. A good location is the Saih al Salam area and around the nearby Bab al-Shams desert in Dubai. Also try the open area at Khor Kalba before the bridge, at position 25.020882N , 56.360373E. Fodder fields near Al Ain, for example, Al Quaa’a or Al Ankah often host this species, alongside Namaqua Doves.

 

BAR-TAILED LARK

An uncommon and highly localized breeding bird. Inhabitating rocky areas in the sandy desert, just inland from the coast, as in the Bab al-Shams Desert, where increasingly rare or absent since 2016.

Also found on headlands in the extreme west of Abu Dhabi Emirate, along the Saudi Arabian border. The Sila'a Peninsula between the last farm and the peninsula tip is a reliable location, but the birds are hard to find.

 

GREATER HOOPOE-LARK

A common but elusive resident of the open deserts. May be found anywhere where the habitat has not been too disturbed. The Bab al-Shams desert and the Saih al Salam area are good locations, particularly in spring at dawn, when it can be located by call. Roadside along the roads to the Liwa Oasis can also be good, as can the open scrubby plains along the shore between Khor al-Beida and Al Rafa'a.

BIMACULATED LARK

An uncommon & localized winter visitor to fodder fields. The most consistent location is Al Wathba Camel Racetrack in Abu Dhabi, where it may be encountered on the racetrack itself near the main grandstand from November until March. The best strategy is to drive down onto the inside the camel track and then turn sharp right, to drive slowly along the inside of the track. In particular, search the first 500m of track. Birds are often disturbed from here by training camels, so several passes may be required.
Has been irregular at Wamm Farms.

ORIENTAL SKYLARK

An uncommon but regular winter visitor to fodder fields. Best site is the Wamm Farms. Learn the call and be prepared to tramp all the longer grass (particularly that with barer bits amongst it). Note that Eurasian Skylarks are much more common here.

 

PALE CRAG MARTIN

A common resident breeder of the Hajar Mountains and increasingly on tall buildings in Dubai & Abu Dhabi. Very easy to see at Green Mubazzarah and Jebel Hafit.

HYPOCOLIUS

An erratic and nomadic winter visitor in variable numbers. Can be found in any plantation in the country, with the formerly good (and very accessible) site of Ghantoot possibly still having birds, at least erratically. Since 2008 one farm on Sila'a Peninsula has proved a reliable wintering site, at least from late November until January (position 24.070195 , 51.774336).
The birds have also regularly wintered on the rarely-visited Dalma Island (in the forest near the hospital and big mosque). The difficult to access Lulu Island off Abu Dhabi has also proved a very reliable wintering site, but you will need your own boat to reach there.

A new roosting site was discovered in November 2012; the mangrove patch immediately to the east of Yas Island--Yas Links Golf Course (position 24.485080 , 54.589927).

 

RED-TAILED WHEATEAR

A common passage migrant and winter visitor to the Hajar Mountains, from the end of September to April. The Green Mubazzarah in Al Ain is a very reliable location, as is Qarn Nazwa, Masafi Wadi and Wamm Farms.

 

VARIABLE WHEATEAR

An uncommon winter visitor, from mid-September to late January only, to gravel acacia plains.

Qarn Nazwa plain at position 24.991528 , 55.662992 and the Wamm Farms gravel area are reliable locations. There are few others, with Masafi Wadi turning up a few birds every winter.

HOODED WHEATEAR

An uncommon & highly localized resident breeding species in the Hajar Mountains. This species is secretive, and can be difficult to find. Best locations are both in Al Ain: in the grounds of the Mecure Hotel at the top of Jebel Hafeet and in the Green Mubazzarah around the chalets at 24.098898 , 55.750753.

It has also been recorded around Hatta Dams and Wadi Bih where it probably breeds.

HUME’S WHEATEAR

A common and easy to find resident of the Hajar Mountains. Breeds inside the grounds of the Hatta Fort Hotel, as well as on Jebel Hafit and in the Green Mubazzarah. Also easy to find in Wadi Bih and along the road from Masafi Wadi to Wamm Farms.

SCRUB WARBLER

A scarce and often hard to find resident of the Hajar Mountains. Masafi Wadi is a good location where this species is resident year-round, it is very vocal and may be especially obvious early in the morning. It is not known from Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain.

 

CLAMOROUS REED WARBLER

A common breeding resident of any mangrove area. Also present in the reeds around Al Warsan Lakes in Dubai and Zakher Lake in Al Ain. A common passage migrant in parks and gardens during spring and autumn migration.

UPCHER’S WARBLER

A widespread and sometimes common spring migrant, from March to May, mainly in the second half of spring. Likely at any site attractive to migrants, including the Acacias trees at Wamm Farm, Masafi Wadi and Green Mubazzarah and landscaped parks with Ghaf trees, for example in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Less common but still regular in autumn.

 

SYKES’S WARBLER

The only known location is the mangroves at Khor Kalba, where it is secretive, and often hard to find. Best located along the western edge of the mangroves. Access is not possible since summer 2012, see the Khor Kalba section under the Sites link for more info.

 

PLAIN LEAF-WARBLER

A common winter visitor from late October until early March to the Hajar Mountains. Masafi Wadi is a good location, as is the side-wadi in Green Mubazzarah and Wadi Tarabat. This species is invariably in the crowns of low Acacia trees. Wintering Chiffchaff’s are very scarce in these areas; this species also has a very distinctive, buzzy or sparrow-like call. It sounds nothing like any other local Phylloscopus warbler.

 

ARABIAN BABBLER

A common breeding resident, particularly in the northern emirates around Ra's al-Khaimah airport and Hamraniyah Fields, as well as Al Jazirah Khor. Near Dubai you can try Mushrif National Park around the position 25.216278N , 55.458323E, and outside Ain al-Fayda park in Al Ain around position 24.090142N , 55.706988E.

 

BROWN-NECKED RAVEN

An declining resident of both the sandy deserts and the Hajar Mountain, more common in the northern emirates. Can be easily seen along the northern section of Emirates Road E611 in Ra's al-Khaimah and around Hamraniyah Fields.

Another good site is the desert from Al Ain to Al Qua'a and Jebel Hafit.

PALE ROCKFINCH

An uncommon passage migrant and probable occasional breeder in the mountains. May be absent for years on end.

In good years and particularly from late February until April or early May, this species can be seen almost anywhere, from the coastal dunes of Khor al-Beida to the desert of Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and the mountain wadis around Jebel Hafeet to Al Qua'a and Sila'a Peninsula.

Any fodder field in the desert is worth a try.

 

YELLOW-THROATED SPARROW

A common summer breeding species to acacia dominated plains. Best locations are the coastal plains south and west of Khor Kalba, where it breeds in good numbers from April until August.

TRUMPETER FINCH

A scarce resident breeder in the Hajar Mountains. Best location is Wadi Bih, also recorded with some regularity at Sifini Dam.

BLYTH’S PIPIT

An uncommon and localised passage migrant in very small numbers, as well as a winter visitor to fodder fields.
Best site is Wamm Farms. 

LONG BILLED PIPIT

An uncommon breeder in the Hajar Mountains. The easiest place to see them in this habitat is Masafi Wadi.

Also an uncommon winter visitor to fodder fields, especially Wamm Farms, and have been recorded regularly at Green Mubazzarah on dry rocky slopes in winter.

MASKED WAGTAIL

This well marked form is a scarce autumn, and very occasional spring, migrant to any wetland sites with large numbers of White Wagtails, from Sila'a in the far west to Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Dibba.
The single best spot is inside the cow enclosures at Wamm Farms.

STRIOLATED BUNTING

A common breeding species in the Hajar Mountains. Wadi Bih in the north and Green Mubazzarah in Al Ain are good locations.
Winters further down, and can be seen at Wamm Farms during this time.

CINEREOUS BUNTING

A very scarce, although annual, migrant in March and April. May turn up anywhere favoured by migrants, including Abu Dhabi Island, Dubai parks, Green Mubazzarah and Jebel Hafit on the lawn of the Mercure Hotel.

© 2018 Tommy Pedersen
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