Thursday, 1 December 2011

Fal residential compound, Riyadh

Thanks to an invitation from my friend Jon, I birded Fal residential compound in Riyadh today.

It is roughly 2 kilometres west of Al Waha compound which is the only other compound in Riyadh that I have birded so far. It is slightly larger than Al Waha and the landscaping is more mature. 

The bird life had much in common but there were some notable differences.

ring necked parakeet

One obvious difference is the presence of ring necked parakeet. This bird is found in all larger compounds in the city. 

part of the compound

The birds were also very approachable particularly later in the afternoon although they mainly kept to the tall trees except when feeding. 

parakeet feeding on dates

Near the main place for ring necked parakeet were a mobile flock of common myna. Associating with the flock from time to time was a darker bird which I am reasonably confident was a hill myna. I am not claiming it though as I always try to err on the side of caution. If it is a hill myna then it must be an escaped cage bird.

common myna

The compound had the highest concentration of hoopoe that I have so far seen in Saudi Arabia. They kept mainly to the grassed areas.


In contrast I saw only one white wagtail which is extremely common in agricultural areas such as the fodder fields in the Al Hayer area south of Riyadh.

lone white wagtail

As has been noted before by me and others, the black bush robin has adapted well to compounds in Saudi Arabia. It is a true garden bird in them.

black bush robin in Fal compound

I saw that one or two of the black bush robin had less white on the under-tail and orange brown flashes on their wings which are a little reminiscent of Tristram's grackle. This feature is not mentioned in either the Helms guide to birds of the Middle East or Collins guide to Europe. However, I did find a couple of references to this colouration on the internet.

young black bush robin

Indeed in flight all the black bush robin had wings which appeared dark orange brown when the sun shone through them even more like a grackle!

house sparrow

Black bush robin was not the only bird whose colouration exercised me. A small number of the male house sparrow had what appears to be uniformly brown heads and small bibs.

second view of house sparrow

I don't have any real explanation for this. I can't see how wear or bleaching could achieve this result. Perhaps I just haven't studied house sparrow closely enough in the past. I wonder if the birds are first winter and if the charcoal head only comes when a first winter male turns into a full adult? Excuse my ignorance.

white cheeked bulbul just after bathing

Having looked at some of the debating points of the compound's birding, I mustn't forget the mainstream. The most common bird there was probably white cheeked bulbul.

typical landscape round the side of the compound

Like Al Waha, there are undoubtedly large numbers of wintering warblers which merit a whole day to themselves. Once again I didn't give myself time to look at them properly. 


Despite its wide supercillium I still place the warbler above as a chiffchaff. I have no doubt that one of the other wintering warbler is eastern olivaceous warbler. Unfortunately it never remained still enough for me to photograph it. 

laughing dove at Fal

Finally I noticed another small difference between Fal and Al Waha compounds. In Fal the dominant dove is laughing dove whereas in Al Waha it is collared dove.

collared dove at Fal

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