Thursday, 29 November 2012

Indian species in central Arabia

Today has been the coldest day in my time in Riyadh. Furthermore its been the wettest 24 hours. Despite this I went out birding in my local patch at Al Hayer.

When it wasn't raining the birds were out in force including the smaller ones.  And because it was so cool, the birds were active all day.

Indian silverbill

Early on I saw a flock of Indian silverbill. This bird can now be seen throughout much of the non-desert parts of eastern and central Arabia and in the Jeddah area around the ex-pat compounds.  In the Jeddah area, presumably it is there because of escapes but in the east natural range expansion must be an option too. 

male avadavat

A couple of hours later I got my best view of a flock of avadavat in KSA. It was also the largest flock I have seen. This is another Indian bird which has successfully breed ferally from escapes. It has been in the Riyadh area for at least 20 years and though it appears other feral populations of escaped small cage birds have died out, avadavat seems to have adapted well. Having said that I have only ever seen it in the Al Hayer area.

female avadavat

Streaked weaver has a very similar history although it suffered a near catastrophic loss two summers ago when the majority of nests were lost in a reed fire during the breeding period. There are many more this winter than last so the population must have re-bounded.

streaked weaver

The two most common Indian species in the Riyadh region are white-eared bulbul and common myna. Both have a much wider local distribution than avadavat and streaked weaver

white eared bulbul

I saw all four of these species along with Indian silverbill within walking distance of each other near the Pivot fields at Al Hayer. There is one other Indian species which can sometimes be spotted there too. That is bank myna. Its numbers are very small and it may be one of those that fails to survive.

For the sake of completeness I must mention there is one other Indo-Malay bird in the Riyadh area that you cant see at AL Hayer. That is red vented bulbul. I have only seen it at the Intercontinental hotel and in a couple of ex-pat compounds.

In the next blog, I'd like to look at the shrikes seen today and the ever changing taxonomy of the shrikes of the middle east.

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