Saturday, 16 February 2013

Sociable lapwings near Jizan

Lou Regenmorter and I spent the weekend birding in Jizan province. I had been there twice before so I was keen to find certain target birds rather than do general birding.

The target birds were seen and five species were added to my Saudi list.  However, one of the unforeseen consequences of the trip was our encounter with sociable lapwing for the second time this winter.

three sociable lapwings

At about 8.30 on Thursday morning, we had stopped in a field at the side of the main north road out of Jizan to look for some larks that I had seen there on a previous visit. Lou suggested we walk to a more distant field where a farmer was cutting the grass and was attracting many birds.

From a distance we could see 40 or so cattle egret following the farmer's tractor around as he cut.

In another blog I'll report on all the birds seen there but for the moment I can tell you that while we were observing them, 35 sociable lapwing dropped in on us!

We didn't find them, they found us.

more sociable lapwings

The group split in half, 15 went on to another field near-by while precisely 20 stayed in the field being cut.  They allowed us prolonged viewing helped by the fact that the water pivot was acting as cover for us.

the two halves of the flock rejoin

After about 15 minutes they flew off to rejoin the others. The picture above shows 18 of them. The two leaders weren't captured.

Our previous encounter was with 10 in Tabuk (1000 km directly north) in November. We were told this was the largest Saudi sighting for some years. Now this one was of course much larger.

IUCN map of sociable lapwing distribution

The IUCN says that sociable lapwing used to be found north of Jizan (pink coloured) but is no more. Clearly they still are. I added the  blue area to their map above and marked it with a T for our Tabuk sighting. I hope the experts will once again colour the Jizan area blue too!


  1. That's a great find. Rob, another little piece of the jigsaw as to where this species is, post-breeding.....

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie,

    Thanks. We got lucky on this one. Actually the whole weekend exceeded expectations. I added 5 to my Saudi list and I would have been happy with the two main target species.