Sunday, 3 February 2013

Wadi Rabigh

I visited my old birding colleague from my Azerbaijan days last weekend. Brian James also works in Saudi Arabia but is based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) at Thuwal north of Jeddah.

We birded wadi Rabigh on Thursday morning. This wadi is one of the few places in KSA with at least some permanent flowing water.

 steppe eagle

We arrived in the bottom end of the wadi just after dawn and were treated to a movement of literally hundreds of birds of prey which mostly landed just ahead of us. The vast majority were black kite but a few were not.

black kite

It was these few that weren't which were arguably more interesting. In among the black kite were a dozen or so steppe eagle. One of the birds flying overhead was an Egyptian vulture. This was my first sighting in KSA.

booted eagle

There was also a perched booted eagle. The main attraction for these birds was probably the local abbatoir. Looking at this scene, I can understand why Egyptian vulture might be having problems. The competition for carrion at this time of year must be intense. Brown necked raven was also competing as witnessed by watching two of them waiting patently next to a steppe eagle on top of a dead sheep.

stream at wadi Rabigh

When we moved up the valley the number of black kite thinned out.

Blue rock thrush. Cropped from a photo by Brian James

Other birds came into play. Striolated bunting were singing from isolated rocks and a blue rock thrush was seen too.

 sand partridge across the wadi

Across the wadi in the distance a single sand partridge sat on a rock from a while. Brian's camera is slightly more powerful than mine and he managed to catch an image.

Arabian babbler

In the bushes near the stream were Arabian babbler, blackstart and yellow vented bulbul.



In some reeds on the stream was a stonechat and a bluethroat. There was also an unidentified warbler.


The stonechat was almost certainly an eastern stonechat.

yellow vented bulbul

We got to see a couple more booted eagle this time in leisurely flight overhead.  

another booted eagle

The types and numbers of birds of prey continued to surprise.

long legged buzzard

Two long legged buzzard perched on rocks 100 metres apart and a few more steppe eagle flew over.

black stork

Large water birds were also present. A black stork was seen over flying and a purple heron was at home in a bush. Three little egret past us by.

purple heron

Graceful prinia made a lot of noise from the bushes near the purple heron.

desert lark

After a couple of hours in the main wadi we headed south through the fields picking up only desert lark, crested lark, desert wheatear and eastern mourning wheatear for the most part though we passed through a set of trees which had house sparrow and hypocolius.

 barbary falcon

However, the most exciting find in the area were two high flying barbary falcon alongside two steppe eagle. This was not only a first for me in KSA but a lifer too. This was a fitting end to the first session's birding.


  1. Diversity and wonderful place, 4 birds here if I was with you I will add to my list!

  2. Nice one with the Barbary Falcon - these are a description bird in Maroc due to the possible confusion with a couple of races of Peregrine i do'nt know if there are confusable subspecies in KSA -

    Nice range of spp including what looks like a confiding Bluethroat.

    Laurie -

  3. Laurie, we gave them long views (or they allowed us long views) because we were aware of this confusion species. Both of us were confident by the end and didn't allow the fact that barbary falcon is resident here and peregrine a scarce winterer to affect us.