Friday, 4 January 2013

Some birds of prey from Jizan

Mansur al Fahad and I saw 7 or 8 species of birds of prey while we were down near Jizan. It was 7 or 8 depending on whether you think yellow billed kite is a separate species from black kite.

I have a personal dislike of modern splitting unless its supported by sound DNA measurement. My scientific back ground has brought me up to think that way. Look at the fog the grey shrike complex was in before the DNA scientists got to grips with it. 

So you may have guessed I think it is premature to support yellow billed kite as separate species because its bill is a different colour and they don't live permanently in the same district.  

Incidentally, we have got two versions of Arabian babbler down here with the same bill colour differences (black and yellow). No one (yet) is saying they are not the same species!

black kite

Anyway, we saw both types in and around Jizan. If anything the winter visiting black kite were more numerous than the resident yellow billed kite.

yellow billed kite

Talking (or writing) about resident birds brings me onto the next bird of prey - short toed eagle. The Helms guide to the Birds of the Middle East says that the Arabian birds may be resident although the map cautiously shows them as summer breeders in all places.

You may remember that I blogged seeing my first one in KSA a couple of weeks ago and that was at Al Hayer, central Arabia. This is pretty close to where they breed (a little bit of dispersal). I said at the time that this some evidence along with a Pers Bertilsson observation of one in winter in the same region that they (or at least some) don't migrant.

short toed (snake) eagle

Sure enough, Mansur and I saw another one this time near Sabya, Jizan province and also close to another place on the map where they are down as summer breeders. Its getting close to a pattern now. 

steppe buzzard

The final photograph is tentatively of a steppe buzzard (foxy morph) which only really became separable from long legged buzzard when it flew off. It has a dark head which I understand is a useful feature in separating when they are perched.

The other birds of prey seen were kestrel, steppe eagle and marsh harrier.

Another vote of thanks are due to Mansur Al Fahad who provided all the pictures except the buzzard. I have once again taken the liberty of cropping his originals.

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