Wednesday 28 August 2013

Exotic finches at Al Hayer

Exotic finches have been reported south of Riyadh for over two decades. Many are recorded for a short period and then appear to die out. All are presumed to have started out as escaped caged birds.

Two at least have thrived all through this period. These two are streaked weaver and red avadavat (red munia).

Ruppells weaver has been reported over this period too. I have seen it myself on a number of occasions.  However it is only hanging on in very small numbers in two very well separated small groups.

In the early 1990s an isolated case of scaly breasted munia occurred. At the end of the decade two northern red bishop (male and female) were observed. Chestnut munia was seen at two different times years apart in the 1990s.

All three species have probably died out.

One that may still be around but over-looked is Baya weaver. It was seen frequently in the early 2000s. I must admit that until recently I have not been looking closely enough at the streaked weaver to see if any are actually (quite similar) Baya weaver.

Now it appears there is another exotic finch around. Bird enthusiast and excellent photographer Ahmed Alkassim recently captured this photo of a young Arabian golden sparrow at Al Hayer.

Arabian golden sparrow by Ahmed Alkassim

I have corresponded with Ahmed who tells me that this is not an isolated bird. There are at least a few of them. 

Arabian golden sparrow is native to Saudi Arabia but previously only in Jizan province in the far south west.

It appears to have bred at Al Hayer this spring but surviving the winters here may be a different proposition. Although it is over 40C now it can get down to around freezing for two or three nights each winter. However, in mild winters this doesn't happen.

female red avadavat by Ahmed AlKassim

Ahmed has an excellent and growing collection of local bird photos on flickr. He also has many other pictures of superb quality on a wide range of subjects mostly relating to this part of the world. 

You can find his pictures by going to flickr and searching on "Ahmed Alkassim" or "Alkassim".

The simplest way though is probably to go directly to his photostream at:

I am grateful to Ahmed for sharing his pictures and the additional information on Arabian golden sparrow.

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