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Jordan

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor ©Nigel Blake Website

With much attention focused on neighbouring Israel, information for birders about Jordan has been sadly lacking. The publication of Ian Andrew's excellent book in 1995 The Birds of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and his Birding in Jordan website (see link below) helped put Jordan on the birding map. Ian worked in Jordan for a number of years and collected together records from the small number of birdwatchers and tour companies who had previously visited this fabulous and underwatched country.

Ornithologically, the main difference between birding in Jordan and in Israel, is that you have to find the birds yourself. In contrast with Aqaba (Jordan's main Red Sea port); very few birds must pass unseen in Eilat (especially during peak migration seasons). With less than a mile between them, the same birds must occur. Any birder in Jordan therefore has a greater chance of ornithological glory! The few Jordanian birdwatchers can often expect to discover new birds for their country or at least major rarities.

The difference in the level of coverage is reflected in the bird lists of these countries - over 500 recorded for Israel and around 415 for Jordan, although, of course, Israel has a relatively long Mediterranean coast too. Another tempting feature for would-be visitors is the habitat. Eilat regulars are often dismayed by the continued development in the resort, whereas the habitat in Aqaba is fantastic with irrigated allotments running for about one kilometre along the coast and an increasingly famous sewage works (not least because it can almost be viewed from Eilat – but not quite!)

Ornithological understanding has increased substantially since the 1994 when the first of many expeditions took place to establish baseline criteria for Jordan's wildlife organised by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan. These were the first expeditions since Guy Mountford et al visited the country in the 1960s. (Try getting hold of the excellent account of this expedition - Portrait of a Desert). Much of these baseline data were collected by Jordanian/European survey teams including many bird specific surveys. An RSCN arrangement with the RSPB staff sabbatical system has led to a useful stream of more than willing volunteers to spend upwards of a month birdwatching in this fascinating country. These surveys are on-going so anyone wishing to help should contact the RSCN research@rscn.org.jo or look at their website www.rscn.org.jo

Although there are plenty of new places to explore in Jordan, there are a number of sites definitely on the birding trail. More details can be found in Ian Andrew's excellent book available through his website, and the website itself. The country's position at the top of the rift valley means that migrant birds can be found almost anywhere at the right time of year.

Starting in Amman, most birding itineraries explore the country in two stages. Firstly, heading from the city into the eastern desert, one can expect to start seeing typical desert species but there are several specific sites well worth exploring. The first important stop is Wadi Al Butm – a tree lined wadi worth checking for migrants. Among the more common migrant species, birds such as White-throated Robin and Striated Scops Owl have been reported.

The next stop is Azraq. Now a shadow of its former glories due to water extraction, this desert oasis has enjoyed substantial habitat restoration in the last few years and is now a must for passing birders. With a visitor centre, boardwalk through the reeds and hides, visitors can view the pools easily and can expect to find a good range of wetland birds and passage migrants. The lack of cover in the surrounding stony desert means Azraq pulls in the birds and is responsible for some excellent records in recent years. Highlights have included Menetries Warbler, Egyptian Nightjar and Red-wattled Lapwing. When flooded, the low-lying desert (Qa) to the east of the reserve can hold massive numbers of waterfowl and waders.

Eleven kilometres from Azraq is another RSCN reserve – Shaumari. This is another site able to pull in migrant birds since it again offers substantial cover (scrub and woodland) amid the surrounded desert. The road leading to this oasis allows birders good access to the desert too with Larks and Cream-coloured Coursers regularly seen.

Heading further east, the road passes through the town of As Safawi. From here eastwards, you enter the basalt boulder desert. About 9k east of the town, among the more typical larks and wheatears it is worth looking out for the so-called Basalt Wheatear probably a dark form of Mourning Wheatear. The dark morph Desert Lark (subspecies annae) can also be found here. The boulder desert means this area is hard to explore and too far from the road without a four-wheel drive. However, finding these birds near to the road isn't usually too much trouble. The desert near As Safawi also contains a recently discovered (1999) Ammoperdix partridge that could be an undescribed race of See-see rather than the Sand Partridge - but more research is needed.

After exploring the eastern desert, birders usually venture south of the capital into the Jordan Valley. The first stop is usually the Dead Sea where one can find, hardly surprisingly, nesting Dead Sea Sparrows. However the whole valley area down to As Safi near the southern tip of the Dead Sea is irrigated and provides extensive unexplored habitat. Heading further south, the wadis extending down from the rift margin can be explored using the roads near Fidan. Until recently, access along this road required military permission. Now things are much more straightforward to the east of the road. Caution should be taken around military camps and to the west of the road (the border side). You may be questioned if you wander too close to camps but usually out of curiosity. Best to ask first. This area provides the bird with the usually desert species: Temminck's, Horned, Hoopoe and Desert Larks. Dunn's Larks have also been found here [in 1994].

Heading down to the port of Aqaba, you're in migrant heaven! At the right times of year you can expect Collared Flycatchers to be perching on postcard stands, Thrush Nightingales contact calling from under parked cars and explosions of Levant's Sparrowhawks from bushes and trees as you pass them. No different to Eilat in this respect but in Aqaba, you will probably be the birder finding these birds. As previously mentioned, the coastal strip is a series of irrigated allotments full of warblers, chats and pipits. Aqaba also has a fantastic sewage works! A sewage works at the top of the Red Sea has to be worth a visit! It is true to say that many of Jordan's rarest sightings come from this site. Birds are welcome but its situation close to the border makes this a sensitive military area. One has to seek permission to gain access but it is well worth the hassle. Recent highlights include Painted Snipe, Cotton Teal, Pink-backed Pelican, Grey-headed Gull and Pacific Golden Plover.

North of Aqaba is Wadi Rum. This is a spectacular area of vast sandstone mesas up to 800m tall. This site has great ornithological significance in Western Palaearctic terms being the only reliable breeding site for Verreaux's Eagle. Recent birdwatching records suggest that there may be another pair or two in Jordan but your best bet to see this magnificent eagle is to scan the cliffs behind Wadi Rum resthouse. In recent years, seeing a Verreaux's Eagle has been less than certain after an adult bird was found dead. Fortunately at least two birds have been seen in the last year or two raising hopes that this species maintains it status in Jordan.

Moving further north on the Kings Highway which runs along the rift valley margins, one can visit The RSCN reserve at Dana. This site offers the visitor some of the most spectacular views in the country, looking out over Wadi Araba. Wadi Dana itself leads down into Fidan mentioned earlier but here, at an altitude of 1500m, the habitat is very different. The Barra forest is made up of oak and juniper and holds species such as Tristram's Serin, Cretzschmar's Bunting and Sinai Rosefinch. The rocky wadis contain Hume's, Eagle and Scops Owl. The campsite at Dana is also an excellent place to watch raptor migration. Two Verreaux's Eagles have been seen here annually since 1999 and with earlier sightings of both adult and juvenile birds, one would think that this area could well hold another pair. It is a wonderful place to stay and most birders spend at least a night here. This is why there are so many excellent bird records from the site. Most recent additions to the Dana list have been Crested Honey Buzzard and Black Bushchat.

There are many other sites not mentioned here as this is a small sample of some of the key areas. Jordan is one of the most welcoming and safe countries in the Middle East and also very easy to explore. There are several RSCN reserves encompassing a wide range of habitats. Information about visiting and travelling in Jordan can be found in the websites mentioned below. Whilst in Jordan, it is worth putting aside time to visit some cultural sites. Even the most bird focussed visitor would be hard pressed not to find Petra and Jerash breathtaking. Of course, these sites are not without their birding attractions too!

Contributor

Dr Fares Khoury

Additional Information

Jordan

avijordan2000@yahoo.com

Richard Bashford

Regular visitor as guide for Naturetrek

Richard.Bashford@rspb.org.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 430

National Bird: Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus

Checklist

Checklist

WebBirder Checklist

Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder

Useful Reading

The Birds of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Ian J. Andrews Paperback (1995) Ian J. Andrews

ISBN: 0952497808

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The State of Jordan's Birds

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, RSCN, Amman. 2013 Download available at:
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/userfiles/file/sowb/countries/SOJB_final_pdf.pdf

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

In2Jordan

Tour Operator

Jordan is on the crossroads of three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa… It is not yet known as neighbouring country Israel for its birds, but has everything it takes to become a fantastic birding destination. Jordan is a country with different habitats, from pine- to oak forests, steppes with shrubs, and hot dry deserts. Olive- and pistachio orchards in the North and wetlands in the east which emerge as fata morganas. The Jordan Rift Valley with its valleys which descend to Wadi Araba and the Dead Sea, the Wadi Rum desert in the south and the salty beaches of the Red and Dead Sea. These diverse landscapes give home to 434 bird species. So take this opportunity to discover Jordan as a bird watching destination!

Naturetrek

Tour Operator

A 9-day holiday in search of the specialist mountain birds and migrants to be found in this dramatic country…

Rockjumper Birding Tours

Tour Operator

Our 3-day extension to Jordan includes a full day in Petra, the most astounding ancient city left to the modern world. Birding targets include Palestine Sunbird, Sinai Rosefinch, Syrian Woodpecker, Fan-tailed Raven, Sooty Falcon, Sand Partridge and Syrian Serin.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2007 [04 April] - Trude Starholm & Øyvind Hagen - 300 Club

Report

Compared to its neighbour Israel, Jordan is a country with relatively few visiting birders and during our stay we met only one. Apart from a ringing station at Azraq and a bird station under construction at Aqaba Sewage Plant there were few other signs of ornithological activity. The country should nevertheless be regarded as a first-class destination for birders with varied habitat types, some very spectacular locations and being situated very favourable in respect to migrating routes. We did see a total of 143 species during our stay which we found satisfactory considering we did not visit areas north of Amman nor did we find the time to do any serious birding by the Red Sea…

2007 [11 November] - Ernesto Occhiato

Report

Good site info and bird list with background etc…

2010 [05 May] - David T. Bell

Report

If you plan to go birding in Jordan, be prepared, because it seems to be a destination that is just at the dawn of ecotourism. Also, be prepared to be disappointed…

2010 [11 November] - Alison & Colin Parnell

Report

…We headed south towards Petra, taking in the Dead Sea and the crusader castle at Karak. On the way we added Blackstart, White-crowned Black Wheatear and a pair of Desert Larks. Incidentally, most of the White-crowned Black Wheatears we saw on the trip didn't have the white crown. We had hoped to find some waders at the salt pans on the Dead Sea but couldn't find a way into the pans. I have to admit that we didn't try very hard since scanning didn't reveal anything promising…

2011 [04 April] - Rosemary Royle

Report

…This was a combined birdwatching and sight-seeing trip, with the balance well in favour of birdwatching! We had been attracted to Jordan by the itineraries produced by Naturetrek (one of the few wildlife tour operators who visit Jordan), by the desire to see Petra and Wadi Rum…

2011 [04 April] - Thomas Pettersson

Report

The main purpose of the trip was, as already mentioned, bird watching with the aim to see as many of Jordan’s breeding bird species as well as regular passage migrants. On top of the ‘wish list’ was Nubian Nightjar…

2012 [01 January] - Chris Doughty

Report

…There was a large number of both resident and migrant birds in the area. A Common Buzzard soared skywards, a few Eurasian Collared Doves were in attendance, along with flocks of Little Swifts, a Eurasian Hoopoe, a few Barn Swallows and House Martins, good numbers of Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Graceful Prinias, a pair of Palestinian Sunbirds, a beautiful Southern Grey Shrike and best of all, a Bluethroat, a Blackstart and a flock of three Indian Silverbills…

2013 [04 April] - Mitko Petrakiev & Mike Witherick

Report PDF

…Here we had our introduction to some of the more common and generally colourful birds, such as White-breasted Kingfisher, White-spectacled Bulbul, Woodchat Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Laughing Dove and Palestine Sunbird. At one stop, we had three different species of raptor in the air at the same time – Levant Sparrowhawk and Long-legged and Steppe Buzzards…

2014 [04 April] - Colin Mackenzie-Grieve

Report

I have just returned from a short family holiday in Jordan. Mainly non-birding but while we were in Aqaba I did visit Aqaba Bird Observatory. Before I went, I was able to find out very little online about access to the observatory, requirements for permits etc. The few websites and email addresses that I could find proved to be out of date and no longer functioning. So a brief update may be helpful...

2015 [03 March] - Mitko Petrakiev

PDF Report

...This year’s late winter slowed down the raptor passage and we had very low numbers of eagles and storks (only three Steppe Eagles and small flock of White Storks), but the sight of dozens of wagtails, pipits and warblers (sometimes in every bush and tree) in the Eastern Desert and Aqaba were a fantastic proof of spring migration taking place...

2016 [12 December] - David Karr - Azraq Wetland Reserve and Eastern ‘Basalt’ Desert

PDF Report

A day trip from Amman to visit the Wetland Reserve managed by the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN) at Azraq (approx. 100kms east of Amman – one hour drive) followed by an extension driving east into the Basalt Desert near As Safawi (another 50kms) with three intermittent stops at three desert wadis (valleys) along the way. The more common desert species were encountered, with the notable exception of our main target, ‘Basalt Wheatear’ (researchers opine is probably a black morph form of Eastern Mourning Wheatear, Oenanthe lugens)*.

2016 [12 December] - David Karr - Wadi Musa and Petra

PDF Report

Our primary quarry, (apart from the glorious 2000 year-old Nabataean ruins), was Sinai Rosefinch and Fan-tailed Raven, both of which were eventually seen without too much difficulty. Birdlife however, was fairly Spartan, possibly due to the cold and breezy weather...

2016 [12 December] - David Karr - Wadi Musa and PetraDana Conservation Area

PDF Report

A self-guided weekend trip to the Dana Biosphere Reserve of Jordan (2.5 hrs drive south from Amman). According to the Wikipedia entry: “Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan's largest nature reserve, located in south-central Jordan. Dana Biosphere Reserve was founded in 1989 in the area in and around the Dana village and Wadi Dana comprising 308 square kilometres”

2017 [01 January] - David Karr - Aqaba and Wadi Rum

PDF Report

A weekend trip from Amman to Jordan’s only coastal port, Aqaba, on the Red Sea, (367kms south) with a day visit to the Aqaba Bird Observatory and an overnight excursion to a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum. In all, 59 species seen in winter with birding highlights: Green Bee-eater, Arabian Babbler, Indian Silverbill, Sinai Rosefinch, Imperial Eagle, White-crowned, Northern, Eastern Mourning, and the somewhat elusive, Hooded Wheatear.

Organisations

BirdLife

Website

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) is the BirdLife Partner

Jordan Birdwatching Club

facebook Page

Group of ornithologists and bird watchers interested in birds of Jordan. A forum to discuss records, status and conservation of birds, and inform about bird watching trips and events in Jordan. The decisions of Jordan Bird Records Committee (JBRC) are also published here…

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature

Website

Box 6354, Jubeiha-AbuNusseir Circle, Amman 11183 Jordan. + 962 6 5337931 adminrscn@rscn.org.jo
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of nature is the power of one. Each animal, each bird, and each plant plays a key role in the cycle of nature. Likewise, each one of us can contribute to the protection of our environment.

Wild Jordan

Facebook Page

Our main purpose in life is to develop viable nature-based businesses within and around RSCN’s protected areas

Reserves

Dana Biosphere Reserve

Information

Satellite View

Dana is located in the southern district of Tafila, about 200 kilometers south of Amman. Due to its wide variety of climate zones (it has mountain heights of 1500 meters and descends to the deserts of Wadi Araba), it is rich in wildlife. But, until recently, development and degradation threatened its biodiversity.…

Jordan's Nature Reserves

Information

Many of the birds for which the oasis was renowned are coming back and special boardwalks and bird hides have been constructed to enable visitors to see and enjoy them…

Wetland of International Importance

Webpage

Jordan presently has 1 site designated as a Wetland of International Importance, with a surface area of 7,372 hectares.

Other Links

Birdwatching

Website

Bird-watchers from all over the world have started organizing week-long trips to Jordan to enjoy the sight of some rare species of indigenous birds…

Birdwatching in Jordan

Website

Bird-watchers from all over the World have started organizing week-long trips to Jordan to enjoy the sight of some rare species of indigenous birds and others that migrate annually between the northern and southern hemispheres…

Jordan Valley Project

Information

…In addition to resident species, the valley is host to a continual flux of migrating birds. At least 500 million birds of over 500 species pass through the Jordan valley in autumn and spring Many of these species breed in mid and Eastern Europe and a significant portion of their entire population pass through the region. Indeed, the entire population of some species such as the lesser-Spotted Eagle and the White Stork passes through the area twice a year…

Wildlife

Website

The numbers of migrants have decreased as Azraq has grown drier, yet even today up to 220 migratory species continue to transit through Jordan on their journey north or south. The approximately 150 species which are indigenous to Jordan seem not to have been affected greatly by the great drought of the 1980s…