New breeding bird species found in UAE

Photo: Wam

A species of bird once thought to be only a very scarce migrant and winter visitor has been found to be a regular breeder in the United Arab Emirates, according to a scientific paper published in the latest issue of ‘Sandgrouse’, the twice-yearly journal of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia, OSME.

The species, the Egyptian Nightjar, is known to breed across a wide range from Morocco to north-eastern Egypt and to southern Kazakhstan, but had not been suspected of breeding in the Arabian peninsula before 2010. Dedicated summer field surveys by UAE birdwatchers, commencing in 2013, have now shown that the species is found regularly in the Ajban area, north-east of Abu Dhabi between March and September. Young birds were first noted in 2013, by a leading Emirati bird photographer, Mohammed Hamad Al Mazrouei, the Under-Secretary of the Court of the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra (Western) Region on Abu Dhabi. Breeding was confirmed in March 2016 and April 2017.

The scientific paper, entitled, ‘The discovery of a breeding population of Egyptian Nightjars Caprimulgus aegyptius’, by two leading local birdwatchers, Oscar Campbell and Mark Smiles, reports on the five years of fieldwork in the Ajban area. Up to five pairs, located by hearing the song of male birds, are believed to have been present earlier this year. The authors conclude that "it is possible that the species has been breeding undetected at the site for several years."

"I am delighted to have played a small part in this discovery," Mohammed Al Mazrouei told WAM.

"Research into our UAE birds is a key part of our conservation strategy, something in which all UAE residents, both citizens and expatriates can play their part."

"This is an important new find," Oscar Campbell, the chairman of the Emirates Bird Records Committee, EBRC, commented. "Up to 40 birds may be present in the Ajban area over summer and we now have circumstantial evidence that the species may also be present further north, in the desert south of Dubai, for example. It provides evidence, once again, that there is much still be to learned about UAE wildlife."

According to the book ‘Breeding Birds of the United Arab Emirates’, by former EBRC Chairman Simon Aspinall, published in 2010 by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, nearly 100 bird species, excluding introduced species, have been recorded breeding in the UAE. Several other species have since been added as a result of survey work.