Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The mangroves north of Al Shuqiaq

Last Thursday's main plan was to head out of Jizan north to the mangroves which are further north from Al Shuqiaq. The main target bird was collared kingfisher.
As I have recently blogged we stopped on the way a couple of times at a wadi and in fodder fields where birds as interesting as Arabian golden sparrow, sociable lapwing and singing bush lark were found. However by late morning we arrived at the mangroves.

collared kingfisher

The good news is that we managed to see several collared kingfisher. It took us nearly 2 hours to find the first one but after that (and once we knew its call) we saw 5 more! Like the collared kingfisher I saw on a trip to the south pacific, they like sitting in the shade of trees next to the mangroves.

Pink backed pelican

The whole area was teeming with a wide diversity of bird life. Before we meet up with the kingfisher we birded a mangrove area just north of Al Shuqaiq (we only saw kingfishers in mangroves over 25 kilometres north of the town).

At this first area of mangroves, we observed a large group of pink backed pelican. And then across the bay from the main group Lou spotted a real bonus to the trip. Among some pinked backed pelican on the far side in the distance, his spotting scope picked up a great white pelican.

Great white pelican with three pink backed pelican

This is not at all common in Saudi Arabia and it was a welcome and surprising addition to my Saudi list.

dark and white morph western reef egret

Further up the coast near the collared kingfisher the range of birds was greater.  

There were plenty of herons - mostly western reef heron but also a lesser number of grey heron and squacco heron, and at least one purple heron.

We were on the look out for Goliath heron which is resident in the area but none were seen.

Eurasian spoonbill

Eurasian spoonbill are also resident here.

Juvenile Eurasian spoonbill

The main flock we saw contained several young birds.

common redshank

The waders were many and varied although we didn't give them as much attention as we could have since time was at a premium. Nevertheless common redshank, common greenshank, common sandpiper, Terek sandpiper, green sandpiper, dunlin, little stint and at least one curlew sandpiper were easily seen.

crab plover

Crab plover was quite abundant too, sharing the same diet apparently as the collared kingfisher.


Both whimbrel and curlew were also present.

Brown booby were seen by using a spotting scope on a small rocky outcrop out to sea alongside some more pink backed pelican. These were the first brown booby I had seen in Saudi Arabia and so was another addition to my country list.

Birds of prey were not very diverse. There were of course lots of black kite and yellow billed kite around as in most of the Tihama (coastal SW Saudi Arabia). However the hoped-for dark chanting goshawk wasn't seen and sooty falcon is still away wintering in Madagascar. 


Osprey were in evidence though. This one was perched finishing off a fish dinner.

ortolan bunting

There weren't too many passerines. Notable exceptions included this solitary ortolan bunting on the edge of the mangroves. Near-by we strangely saw a hoopoe lark.

There was also a single black crowned sparrow lark where we had originally parked the car.

black crowned sparrowlark

All in all I would certainly recommend the mangroves north of Al Shuqiaq among the top 10 places to visit when birding in Saudi Arabia. Though some people have said that al Birk further up the coast is even better. 

However al Birk is too far for a day trip based out of Jizan and it is difficult to see what else it would offer other than perhaps a greater chance to see Goliath heron.


  1. Already an important area for birds, a stunning diversity and I should visit.

  2. Mansur, as you say it is an IBA and it is well merited. The best area is 25 kilometres north of Shuqaiq. The coast guards can be a pain further south too.