Sultanate of Oman
Oman is the easternmost country of the Arabian Peninsula and is ideally situated for getting a mix of African, Oriental and Palaearctic birds, with large numbers of seabirds also occurring. In total, nearly 450 species have been recorded. It covers 212,500 square km and has 2.5 million inhabitants, half of which are expatriates. The country opened up in 1970 when the current Sultan - Qaboos ibn Said took over and it has developed tremendously since then. The infrastructure is excellent with good roads and the scenery fantastic. The people are very friendly and relaxed and the country is absolutely hassle-free and clean. Oman also encompasses the peninsula known as the Musandam, bordering the important Straits of Hormuz and separated from the major part of the country by the UAE. There are also some small Omani enclaves in the eastern UAE. Travel to Musandam is possible via domestic flights, four-wheel drive car (slightly more complicated as it requires visas through UAE) or boat.
Habitats range from the steep fjords of mountainous Musandam in the north, through deserts and vast shores with stands of mangroves, and extensive tidal mudflats and islands (Masirah being the largest) in the east to the afro-tropical forests and brackish khors (lagoons) of the southern Dhofar province. The main part of the country has a dry, desert-type climate with high humidity near the coasts in summer while the monsoon affects Dhofar during July-September when the province receives considerable rainfall; a prerequisite for the lush vegetation on the mountain slopes there.
The mean temperature for Muscat, the capital, is 25C in January and 36C in July, days with up to near 50C occur during the summer period. Salalah, the main city in Dhofar, experiences much cooler summers when the monsoon sets in. The seas off Salalah are deep and there is considerable up-welling there during the monsoon, which makes it ideal for marine life, not only pelagic species of birds but also for whales, dolphins and turtles. Both Humpback and Sperm whales can be seen along most of the Omani coast and there is also a record of Southern Elephant Seal from Dhofar.
There are several good birding sites set out in Top Sites below. In addition to which more generally, the spectacular Dhofar province has numerous good birding sites. Sea-watching from the coast, or by chartered boat, can be very productive after the monsoon with Bridled Tern, skuas, Jouanin's Petrel (anywhere off the coast); Audubon's, Pale-footed and sometimes Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Red-necked Phalaropes in large numbers.
The mountain forests hold many afro-tropical species, such as African Paradise Flycatcher, Shining Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Green Pigeon, African Rock Bunting etc. Hume's Tawny Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl, African Scops Owl and Verraux's Eagle breed. Spotted, Steppe, Imperial and Bonelli's and Booted Eagles are common during the migration/ winter season and rarities such as Tawny Eagle, Long-tailed Shrike and Lesser Spotted Eagle have also turned up. Of Arabian endemics, Yemen Serin, Golden-winged Grosbeak and Arabian Red-legged Partridge occur, with Yemen Linnet a vagrant.
The coastal khors are a haven for water birds and migrants, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Lesser Flamingo, African Spoonbill, Long-toed Stint being more or less regular, with migrant Herons, Little Bitterns, Pintail Snipes, Baillon's Crakes and some years Pale Rock Sparrows. Yellow Bittern apparently has its sole breeding area in Aarabia here.
The local farms are also interesting with Singing Bush Larks, in some years Abdim's Stork, Little Pratincole and Manchurian Red-footed Falcon as well. Cultivated areas in the desert on the road between Salalah and Muscat are excellent for drinking sandgrouse and raptors and rarities (e. g. Wattled Starling and Eye-browed Thrush) are often present.
Travel within the country is easy, in part thanks to the excellent infrastructure. Most international car hire firms are present, and there is accommodation in Salalah (although limited) and Muscat. Group trips for birders are more or less biannually arranged by the Swedish Ornithological Society's Bird Tour [Operator - AviFauna]. The food is excellent, and if sticking to Arabic, Indian and Chinese, fairly cheap. Visas are required and in some cases, depending on which areas one needs to explore, a 4WD and camping equipment is necessary. The country is under-watched, even if a small local group of birders are very active, and there is much to discover.
Sohar Sun Farms
Sohar Sun Farms is a vast farm complex with restricted access in the north. Good for farmland species and rarities. Small Skylark, Sociable Plover, Caspian Plover, bids of prey, large flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-crowned Finch Lark, Richard`s Pipit and rarities such as Long-billed Dowitcher and Blyth`s Pipit (possibly overlooked).
Sunub Rubbish Dump
The Sunub rubbish dump near Muscat is a haven for close-ups of raptors. Large numbers of eagles (Imperial, Spotted, Steppe); Egyptian Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture are always present at this smelly place. Tawny Eagle is a vagrant.
Sawadi, Fahl and Daymaniyah
The islands off Muscat (Sawadi, Fahl and the restricted Daymaniyah) hold breeding Sooty Falcons and Red-billed Tropicbird, White-cheeked Tern, and the country's only breeding Sooty and Roseate Terns (Daymaniyah). Common Noddy is often present. Some years also good numbers of seabirds (Jouanin's and Wilson's Petrels, shearwaters, Masked Boobies) can be seen offshore.
The island of Masarih (Musarih) is a very good area - 330 species.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 434
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Birds of Oman
(Arabic Edition) Michael Gallagher, Martin Woodcock, G Woodstock (Translator) Hardcover (November 1980) Quartet Bks
ISBN: 0704325829Buy this book from NHBS.com
Important Bird Areas in the Middle East
M I Evans, S M Andrews (Illustrator); A J Long (Illustrator) Paperback (September 1994) Birdlife International
ISBN: 0946888280Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Middle East
R.F. Porter, S. Christensen, P. Schiermacker-Hansen Hardcover - 350 pages (September 1996) T & AD Poyser (UK)
Birdlife in Oman
H & J Eriksen Al Roya Publishing 1999
ISBN: 113900Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birdwatching Guide to Oman
by Hanne & Jens Eriksen, Panadda & Dave E Sargeant ? Al Roya Publishing October 2001. Semi-Hard Cover 250 pages. Sole Distributor in UK Natural History Bookshop.
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 126092Buy this book from NHBS.com
Breeding Bird Atlas of Oman
by Oman Bird Records Committee - Compiled by Jens Eriksen, 1998
Common Birds of Oman
by Hanne & Jens Eriksen, Al Roya Publishing 2005 ?20
ISBN: 156086Buy this book from NHBS.com
Oman Bird Records Committee
P O Box 246, Muscat 113, Oman
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
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2007 [11 November] - Mike Watson
Our fourth tour of Oman and Bahrain was another great success with a new record total of 253 species seen, plus another two heard. The tally included 56 Birdquest ‘diamond’ species, exactly the same as the last two years and a reflection of the high proportion of the region’s specialities we see on this tour…
2008 [01 January] - Jan Vermeulen
…However the Al Amerat rubbish dump near the capital is a haven for close-ups of raptors. Large numbers of eagles (Imperial, Greater Spotted, Steppe), Egyptian Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture are always present at this smelly place….
2008 [12 December] - Jos Stratford
A trip of contrasts. Chalk and cheese, eighteen days from 12-29 December 2008, four in the United Arab Emirates, the remainder in Oman. Throughout, amazing birds and stunning desert backdrops. Crab Plover, Grey Hypocolius, Yemen Serin, Socotra Cormorant, names that just conjure up the magic of this little travelled corner of Arabia. In a trip that exceeded my expectations, 5960 km of travel left me in awe of the birds seen in such abundance - tens of thousands of waders on the vast Barr Al Hickman tidal flats, Arabian specials in Dhofar, Desert Warblers and sandgrouse in the remote desert oasis, plenty more in the northern mountains…
2013 [01 January] - Stephen Menzie
…A flock of Crab Plovers flew past some distance away. We also had chance to see our first individuals of species that would prove to be common throughout the trip: Whiskered Tern, Western Reef Egret, Teal, Garganey, Desert Wheatear, Laughing Dove, Slender-billed Gull, Brown-necked Raven and Clamorous Reed Warbler…
2012 [11 November] - Oscar & Kent Jönsson
…We counted about 20 Citrine ́s around the Khawr alone that morning as we took a walk around its shores! About 30 Glossy Ibises took a bath together with 30 Black-winged Stints, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Eurasian Curlew of orientalis race with its unbelivable long bill flew away with a strange scream….
2012 [11 November - Petter Olsson
2012 [02 February] - Forrest Rowland
…Including the upper reaches of Jebel Hafeet above the park, best birds were Arabian and Sand Partridges, Egyptian Vulture, Red-tailed and Isabelline Shrikes, Pale Martin, White-throated Robin, Eversmann’s Redstart, Red-tailed, Hume’s, and Hooded Wheatears, Common Rock Thrush, and others…
2013 [12 December] - Hennie en Lies Lammers
2014 [01 January] - Phil Gregory - Oman & the UAE: Birding Arabia
…Dhofar Governate is always a highlight in the far south of Oman and with much more African feel to it, and here we did well with Arabian Partridge, Arabian Warbler, Arabian Wheatear, Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak for those who went early, the newly split Arabian Scops Owl (albeit briefly!), and Yemen Serin at its only known site outside of Yemen. Three species of sea turtle off the spectacular sea cliffs near Mirbat included a huge Leatherback, and Ras Mirbat gave us Masked and Brown boobies and Socotra Cormorant….
2014 [01 January] - Henry Cook
…Leaving Muscat, we went to the coast at Seeb to scan through some gulls and terns. A gathering on the beach consisted of 160 Sooty Gull, 40 Slender-billed and 50 Steppe Gulls, a few Heuglin’s Gulls, plus a few good candidates for Caspian Gull seen….
2014 [02 February] - Mike Watson - Omani Owl Expedition
Our expedition, the first of a series targeting some of the toughest birds in the world, in our push to- wards 10,500 species was happily a success, with three Omani Owl sightings, two of them at a new site and another bird heard only at the type locality. We played a part in finding a new site for this recently discovered and very poorly known species and a series of firsts included being the first tour company to see the owl, locating what looks like being the first known nest hole of this species as well as being the first birders to see it in daylight and the first to see a pair together…
2014 [12 December] - Forrest Rowland - UAE & Oman
...Our route began in Dubai. We birded the metropolitan hotspots thoroughly, as well as a recently renowned farming operation in the far North, before heading southeast, inland, to “The Garden City” of Al Ayn. Crossing into Oman, we birded the Sohar Coast of the Indian Ocean, before heading high into the Hajars Mountains, the only place where snow is known to fall on the Arabian Peninsula! After a visit to Masirah Island on the central coast of Oman, we headed west and south through the vast expanse of the Rub Al Khali (the Empty Quarter). Out tour ended at the Dhofar region of southern Oman among African Baobabs and Coconut Palms..
2014 [11 November] - Mike Watson - Oman & Bahrain
...The highlights this time were Oman’s special owls. We saw Omani Owl again, only the second tour group to see it, as well as Hume’s Owl, Pallid and Arabian Scops Owls and a new addition and potential split, Arabian Spotted Eagle-Owl. A great mixture of Middle Eastern specialities and sought-after migrants included: Arabian and Sand Partridges; Persian Shearwater; Jouanin’s Petrel; Masked Booby; Socotra Cormorant; Sooty and Barbary Falcons; Little Crake; Crab-Plover; White-tailed Lapwing; Long-toed Stint; Broad-billed Sandpiper; Sooty Gull; Saunders’s Tern; Spotted, Crowned and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse...
2016 [02 February] - Remco Hofland - Southern Oman & UAE
I’m pleased to say we saw all of my desired species well, and furthermore had a very pleasant stay in Salalah, enjoying the hundreds of eagles at Raysut rubbish dump (incl this winter’s vagrant Pallas’s Fish Eagle), the many beautiful wadis of S Oman, the tasty local fruitjuices, the excellent swimmingpool, Indian Ocean views and great cooking at Beach Villas in Salalah and, surprisingly, a great supporting cast of magnificent creatures like breaching Manta (or Devil) Rays, four Arabian Chameleons, breaching False Killer Whale, dozens of dolphins feeding only meters away, great views of sea turtles, Baluch Ground Gecko and many beautiful dragonflies....
2016 [01 January] - Phil Gregory - Oman & UAE
This was the sixth Field Guides trip to Arabia (and my ninth), and was again an exciting and varied experience, despite it being unusually dry in Oman, with relatively few passerine migrants about. We began in the rather astonishing city of Dubai, where this year we had a much better and more convenient hotel as our base, albeit with beer at an eye-watering $15 per pint! We covered a number of desert sites with Mark, our excellent local guide, before going to Abu Dhabi with its extraordinary architecture and horribly distant Hypocolius roost...
2016 [07 July] - Erik Hirschfeld - Dhofar
2015 [11 November] - Mike Watson - Oman & Bahrain
Despite the influence of the most severe depression ever recorded in the Northern Indian Ocean, our eighth Oman & Bahrain tour was another successful visit to this region, recording a respectable total of 242 taxa and 55 Birdquest ‘diamond’ species (regional specialities).
2017 [02 February] - Tim Jones
This trip was created on the back of hearing Stephen Menzie drown on about the country whilst in Morocco and Western Sahara with him in 2015 and further research showing it to have lots of waders and raptors with the potential for some cool vagrants and crazy residents.
2017 [02 February] - Graeme Wright
One week trip with wife gave a few opportunities to visit some of the sites in Birdwatching Guide to Oman. On the whole I got my target birds (biggest dip was Serin which I thought would be the easiest). However the two most unusual records where – White Fronted Goose (5) and Demoiselle Crane...
2017 [01 January] - Pierrick Devoucoux
Oman is an exceptional country for tourists in Middle East: no political tension, high security level, very tolerant residents. Although mass tourism is growing, it remains confined to some large beach resorts near Mascate and Salalah. Infrastructure development is fast-growing, with very good roads everywhere and low gas prices. Locals are remarkably welcoming, especially in remote places with few tourists...
2016 [12 December] - Alex Olie
The aim of this report is to show the surprisingly great diversity for a desert country such the Sultanate of Oman, where more than 200 species of birds may be easily seen in a few days. Most of the species are very interesting for European ornithologists willing to acquire experience in rare eastern species and subspecies of the Western Palearctic...
2016 [12 December] - Johan Elmberg & Erik Hirschfeld
Mazauyna (10.20) - water treatment pond in the desert. 19.905396, 56.507622 - We had difficulties finding it, but north of the village drive past the public water tap north of the road which is mentioned on Jens and Hanne’s site and pass a couple of hills (left and right) and there it is on your right (it is not visible from the main road). A huge dam which must be terrific for sandgrouse and migrants at the right time (we arrived midday). There is also a small rubbish dump at 17.865116, 52.789433 with the usual eagles and Egyptian Vultures.
2016 [11 November] - Mike Watson
Our tenth visit to Oman was a custom tour with a target list of some of the Sultanate’s most sought-after species, particularly Omani Owl. In fact this was our client’s only new bird in prospect! No pressure then. We eventually managed to see one after 24 hours of nocturnal searching, although this investment in hours of darkness on an already whistle-stop, shortened version of our usual itinerary seriously ate into our time for other birding possibilities in the north...
2016 [11 November] - Mark Beevers
...We then returned to the outskirts of Dubai, to a wetland known as Ra’s al Khor and although the front of the hide was taken up by photographers, we still managed to see a few species, including an estimated 5,000 Greater Flamingos, our first Greater-spotted Eagle and a few Gull-billed Terns. We didn’t hang around too long for we had one more site to visit and we needed to be there just before dusk....
A total of 430 bird species have been recorded in the Sultanate, a high number in relation to the country`s land area. Oman, perhaps alone amongst all countries, can claim an avifauna composed from no less than four of the world`s principal fauna! regions…
(ONHM) P O Box 668, Muscat 113, Oman; Tel 968-605400
Jiddat al Harasis Oryx Sanctuary
Jiddat al Harasis, is located within the central region of Oman. The nearest large settlement is Haima to the west. In the southwest are the Rima and Marmul centres of oil extraction. The eastern and southern borders of the property lie on the shoreline of the Arabian sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean.
The lagoons have turned into the most interesting site for birds in the capital area. To date almost 200 species of birds have been recorded here. A visit any time from september to May is likely to produce a list of over 50 species. Migration time is very exciting as almost anything can turn up. From early autumn waders from their high Arctic breeding grounds start to arrive. Little stint (Calidris minuta); Temminck`s stint (C.temminckii); dunlin (C. alpina) and curlew sandpiper (C.ferruginea) are there in good numbers. The noisy wood - and green sandpipers (Tringa glareola and T.ochropus) are easy to find and even the two uncommon Tringa species, spotted redshank (T.erythropus) and marsh sandpiper (T.stagnatilis) usually put in an appearance…