Tuesday 27 November 2012

Tracking birds of prey over Saudi Arabia

I try to keep up with any news and literature on birds in Saudi Arabia. Two recent findings have caught my eye. The first is a recently-published research  paper about the migration of steppe eagle. It includes a section on some excellent work done monitoring birds flying through Saudi Arabia.

The paper is called "Steppe Eagle migration strategies – revealed by satellite telemetry" by Bernd-Ulrich Meyburg, Christiane Meyburg and Patrick Paillat in British Birds 105 • September 2012 • 506–519.

Over a ten year period, 15 steppe eagle were electronically tagged ENE of Taif and followed from there. Of these 8 stayed in Arabia for the winter and 6 crossed over into Africa near the narrowest point in the Red Sea.

Indeed many steppe eagle stay in Arabia for the winter including some further north such as those mentioned in yesterday's blog at Tabuk.
Typical flight of an eagle that crosses the Red Sea (taken from the Meyburg paper)

What was interesting for me about the Meyburg paper was that all the Arabian birds which crossed the Red Sea in late autumn never came back that way in spring preferring an over 1000 kilometre detour up through Egypt.  

So there are less steppe eagle in Saudi Arabia in spring than in autumn. The reason the paper believes that the Red Sea crossing is one way only is because of the prevailing wind direction.

an odd eagle that refused to cross the Red Sea (taken from the Meyburg paper)

One of the 15 tagged birds refused to cross at all and diverted to central Arabia. I wonder how many of the steppe eagle I see near Riyadh in winter are returners like this one and how many flew there direct and decided to go no further?

a steppe eagle seen at Tabuk

Another recent finding that caught my eye is from the excellent website http://lifeneophron.eu/  This is tracking 8 Egyptian vulture from Bulgaria. 7 chose to go south west from Sinai but one chose to go south east after spending a month there.

Egyptian vulture from Bulgaria tracked this month

There are resident populations of Egyptian vulture on the west side of Saudi Arabia(even though I have yet to see one in KSA on one of my all too infrequent visits to the west!).  Their numbers are swollen in winter and at least one of them is from Bulgaria.


  1. Great post Rob and very interesting records.

    Thanks for posting these details as I would not have seen the Bulgarian record I suspect.


  2. Thanks for the info Rob. So this is where our Sudanese birds are coming from.

    Tom (birdingsudan.blogspot.com)

  3. Jem, Thanks for your kind comments. I am interested in Bulgarian birds hence the reason I came up on the Egyptian vulture information.


    I am not sure ALL Sudanese steppe eagle come this way!

    cheers Rob

  4. Very interesting!
    If you want to see more photos of birds, I share you my blog.