The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven separate emirates formed in 1971 after treaty relations with Britain expired, covers a little over 90,000 square kilometres. Abu Dhabi is the by far the largest of the individual emirates (the city of Abu Dhabi being the country`s capital) although Dubai is perhaps the best-known. The other emirates are Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. The wealth of the country is founded on oil but with parallel development in the fields of commerce, including traditional trading arrangements, and finance able to bolster the economy such that it remains prosperous even in the wake of fluctuating oil revenues.
The Tropic of Cancer passes through the south of the country and the climate is typically hot and extremely arid (the interior desert is part of the so-called Empty Quarter). Summer temperatures along the coast reach well into the 40°s and the humidity builds up to become intolerable. Inland, temperatures are even higher (over 50°C is not uncommon) but humidity levels are generally bearable. The temperature in the winter months regularly exceeds the officially published figures of 25-30°C degrees. Rain is irregular, falling most frequently in the east over the mountains in winter. A few torrential summer thunderstorms are, however, noted most years.
The topography of the country is relatively varied with large areas of sand and gravel desert, with high dunes inland and lower meandering dunes systems in the north and east (often with large shading ghaf trees) reaching the coast except where urban development has taken place and in western Abu Dhabi where extensive sabkha salt-flats prevail. The Hajar mountains are bounded to the west by a narrow Acacia savannah on a down-washed gravel plain, while the mountains themselves rise abruptly to 2000-3000 feet. Many wadis (valleys) warrant exploration, especially those supporting permanent freshwater pools. Inter-tidal areas abound, with many khors (blind tidal inlets) vital for migratory waterfowl although not all necessarily easy to work. Accessible areas of mangrove are rather few although the habitat is widespread.
Pre-eminent though is the drive-in site of Khor Kalba, straddling the border with Oman on the Gulf of Oman coast, with the resident endemic kalbaensis subspecies of White-collared Kingfisher readily found together with, in most months, Indian Pond Heron.
Numerous islands exist in the Gulf, although access is severely restricted. Apart from Red-billed Tropicbird, however, all species of nesting seabird can be readily observed on or from mainland beaches and headlands. Thus Socotra Cormorant, Sooty Gull, Swift, Lesser Crested, Bridled, White-cheeked Tern and Saunders’ Terns all generally feature on any trip list.
Some 442 species of bird have been recorded in the UAE in the last twenty-five years, yet of these only 125 or so breed regularly (with less than 60 resident and a further 30 or so naturalised exotics). Remarkably, over 100 species are listed as vagrants. Yet, increased birdwatcher activity in recent years has caused the record books to be rewritten: Blyth`s Pipit and Oriental Skylark are now regarded as regular passage and winter visitors; Crested Honey Buzzard, Olive-backed Pipit and Hume`s Yellow-browed Warbler annual; Forest Wagtail virtually annual and so on.
The avifauna is an east meets west blend of Palearctic and Oriental (Indo-Malayan) species, amongst the latter being ubiquitous Purple Sunbirds, Red-wattled Lapwings, Little Green Bee-eaters and Grey Francolins. Add to all these possibilities, depending on when you visit, the almost guaranteed attraction of migrant or wintering Grey Hypocolius, Red-tailed and Hume`s Wheatears, White-throated Robin, Upcher`s, Menetries` and Plain Leaf Warblers, Pallid Scops Owl, Pintail Snipe, Cream-coloured Courser, Great Knot, Crab Plover and many other species and you can see why the UAE is such a popular destination.
The country is extremely modern, unrivalled in terms of security, free from health risks (characterising most similar tropical destinations) and with liberal attitudes expects to be visited. The road network is of the highest standard, if rather busy at times, but self-drive visitors should have no problems travelling about. The quality of hotel accommodation is very high, with most housing English style pubs. Convinced yet that you should visit?
Birding information, the website UAE birding is found on www.uaebirding.com and is run by Tommy Pedersen, the UAE Bird Recorder. Here you will find information on recent sightings, checklists, information on birdwatching sites, a webforum etc. There is also a section on birdguides available, mostly restricted to Fridays & Saturdays.
Please remember to pass your records for inclusion in the bird database for the UAE and for the records of the Emirates Bird Records Committee to Tommy Pedersen, Bird Recorder on e-mail email@example.com, or to Nick Moran, Secretary of the EBRC e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note the essential fieldguide to the region is: Porter, R.F. et al. 1996. Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East. Poyser. £29.95. ISBN 0-85661-076-3.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 389
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Birds of Southern Arabia
Dave Robinson Paperback (December 1992) Motivate Publishing
ISBN: 1873544375Buy this book from NHBS.com
Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East
Porter, R.F. et al. 1996. Poyser. £29.95.
ISBN: 0856610763Buy 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
The Birds of the United Arab Emirates
by Richardson 100 colour photos & 280 B&W drawings by Bill Morton. Status & distribution of 350+ spp. Siteguide with location maps. Distribution maps,& full checklist 180pp 1990.
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
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 [12 December] - Pat & Judy Hayes
Having previously booked a holiday in the UAE, which had to be cancelled as it coincided with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, it has always been our intention to visit the area when conditions allowed. The UAE is probably the safest Middle East destination especially for some of those special desert dwelling birds.
2008 [01 January] - Chris Bradshaw
…Amongst the highlights were Sociable Lapwing, Crab Plover, a long staying vagrant Lesser Yellowlegs (1st for Arabia), Spotted Crake, Alpine Swift (rare in UAE), Masked Shrike, Hume's and Eastern Pied Wheatears and several regional specialities - Socotra Cormorant, Desert Eagle Owl, Sand Partridge, Sooty Gull White-cheeked Tern and Collared Kingfisher…
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…
2008 [12 December] - Mark Finn
Our second departure to the UAE in 2008 was once again very successful despite the continuing pressures of development and traffic especially around Dubai. Highlights of the tour included Greater Spotted Eagle, Crab Plover, Striated Scops Owl, Hume’s and Hooded Wheatears, Collared Kingfisher, White-cheeked Tern and the regional-endemic Sooty Gull. In addition to these wonderful species we encountered thirty-five species of waders, a good range of wintering species and a few surprises notably Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Sociable Lapwing, Olive-backed Pipits and Steppe Grey Shrike…
2009 [02 February] - Vaughan & Sveta Ashby
…On the lawns themselves up to 12 Cream-coloured Coursers were the first of our day ‘target’ birds, together with several Pacific Golden- plovers, Ruff, Red-wattled Lapwing and hoards of Kentish Plovers. Eurasian Collared-doves and Laughing Doves were everywhere whilst smaller passerines included Crested and Sky Larks and a Tawny Pipit….
2010 [02 February] - John van der Woude
On our flight from Europe to South India with Emirates, we used the free stopover in Dubai for three days birding. First we went to a Crab Plover site in the Northwest, then crossed over to the east coast at Kalba (mangroves, with a rare subspecies of Collared Kingfisher), from there to the region around Al Ain (mountain, desert), and then back through the desert to Dubai…
2011 [10 October] - John & Thomas Yates
...Birds seen in the park were Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Common Myna, Pied Myna, Indian Roller, Hoopoe, Grey Francolin, House Crow, Red vented Bulbul, White Cheeked Bulbul, Tree Pipit, Ring Necked Parakeet, Red Wattled Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, House Sparrow, Purple Sunbird (female), White Wagtail, Isabelline Shrike (Turkestan), Little Egret & a Swift species...
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…
2012 [12 December] - Paulo Paixão
…my personal favourites were the colourful Green Bee-eater and Indian Roller, the elusive Arabian Babbler, the powerful Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, the nomadic and thirsty Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, the elegant Crab Plover, the confident Striolated Bunting and the shy Graceful Prinia…
2013 [08 August] - Ian Reid
…Crab Plover had been high on my wish list for some time, ever since I realised I could potentially seek out this rare and interesting monotypic wader on a stopover between UK and Australia…
2013 [11 November] - Oscar Jönsson
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 [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..
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 [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.
Environmental Research & Wildlife Development Agency
The Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency's (ERWDA) overall aim is to enhance the sustainable development of Abu Dhabi Emirate's environment and wildlife. The National Avian Research Center became fully operational in 1993 and so is the longest operational center in the Agency. Its mission is to promote bustard and falcon conservation and reconcile the trading of Arab falconry with a sustainable use of the resources throughout the bustard and falcons range. This is done through breeding, research, advice, international cooperation and habitat conservation, in order to preserve the natural and cutural heritage and to save species from extinction…
Natural History Museum
The collection includes 47 specimens of various bird species collected from various localities in the UAE. The Golden Eagle, Falcon, Owl and Vulture are represented in the collection…
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve covers a total area of five square kilometers, comprising wetlands, sabkhas (salt flats), fossilized sands and dunes. It was established in 1998 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was the first place in the Emirate to be designated for protection by law and was declared a Ramsar site in 2013. This means that the site has been recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and joins a list of over 2,000 other internationally recognized wetlands around the world.
Khor Kalba - The dark green belt of almost impenetrable mangrove contrasts strongly with the brown and purple rocky mountains and the sparkling blue water. Young seedlings surrounded by air roots signal a healthy environment. The mud at low tide reveals myriads of pretty crabs, while in the shady canopy of the trees a unique small bird makes its home. The white-collared kingfisher is a breeding resident here - and only here. Many other birds like reef herons and booted warblers also nest here. Khor Kalba is a magical place, a place of exquisite beauty, a place worthy of protection. Happily, as Arabian Wildlife goes to press news has come through that Khor Kalba is to be officially designated as a Nature Reserve…
Sir Bani Yas
The island nature reserve and experimental agricultural base of Sir Bani Yas has undergone a massive amount of land reclamation, planting, irrigation and wildlife husbandry creating a place that somehow defies all expectations in terms of what can grow and live in this southern Arabian Gulf region. Flourishing wildlife on the island probably reflects how the region once was, at a time of greater rainfall and greener pastures. Proposals were discussed with UNESCO during the year, concerning international recognition of this unique wildlife reserve with a view to enhancing its status as a wildlife conservation centre…
My name is Abdulhakim, but for short I am called Abdul or Abdi. Anyway, I am a 19 year old high school graduate. I am originally from Somalia which is in a bit of a crisis right now. I am an amateur birdwatcher (quite frankly I`m VERY attached to birdwatching, I have seen 285 bird species out of the 410 on the country list) and I plan to travel all around the world.
Latest edition of magazine + articles etc.
Part of a general UAE site
Natural UAE - Ornithological Importance of UAE
At any one time during migration periods (July - November and April - May) probably in excess of 250,000 waders are present on intertidal areas of the country`s Gulf coast. Taking into account the likely turnover of shorebirds on this Eurasian/West Asian - Arabian Gulf - African flyway, the mudflats of the southern Gulf probably support several million individuals over the course of a year.
Birding the United Arab Emirates - This website is dedicated to birders visiting the UAE, aiming to provide as much up-to-date information as possible…