Republic of Yemen

Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps ©Steve Arlow Website
Birding the Yemen

Yemen, officially the Republic of Yemen is an Arab country located on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia. Yemen has a population of more than 20 million people and is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the North, the Red Sea to the West, the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden to the South, and Oman to the east. Yemen’s territory includes over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra, about 415 kilometres (259 miles) to the south of Yemen, off the coast of Somalia. Yemen is the only republic on the Arabian Peninsula.

At 527,970 km² (203,837 sq mi), Yemen is the world’s 49th-largest country (after France). It is comparable in size to Thailand, and somewhat larger than the U.S. state of California. Yemen is situated at 15°N 48°E. A number of Red Sea islands, including the Hanish Islands, Kamaran and Perim, as well as Socotra in the Arabian Sea belong to Yemen. Many of the islands are volcanic; for example Jabal al-Tair had a volcanic eruption in 2007 and before that in 1883.Until recently, Yemen’s northern border was undefined because the Arabian Desert prevented any human habitation there. The country can be divided geographically into four main regions: the coastal plains in the west, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub al Khali in the east.The Tihamah (“hot lands”) form a very arid and flat coastal plain. Despite the aridity, the presence of many lagoons makes this region very marshy and a suitable breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes. There are also extensive crescent-shaped sand dunes. The evaporation in the Tihama is so great that streams from the highlands never reach the sea, but they do contribute to extensive groundwater reserves. Today, these are heavily exploited for agricultural use. Near the village of Madar about 48km North of Sanaa dinosaur footprints have been found, indicating that the area was once a mud flat.The Tihamah ends abruptly at the escarpment of the western highlands. This area, now heavily terraced to meet the demand for food, receives the highest rainfall in Arabia, rapidly increasing from 100 mm (4 inches) per year to about 760 mm (30 inches) in Ta’izz and over 1,000 mm (40 inches) in Ibb. Agriculture here is very diverse, with such crops as sorghum dominating. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with mangoes being the most valuable. Temperatures are hot in the day but fall dramatically at night. There are perennial streams in the highlands but these never reach the sea because of high evaporation in the Tihama.The central highlands are an extensive high plateau over 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) in elevation. This area is drier than the western highlands because of rain-shadow influences, but still receives sufficient rain in wet years for extensive cropping. Diurnal temperature ranges are among the highest in the world: ranges from 30 °C (86 °F) in the day to 0 °C (32 °F) at night are normal. Water storage allows for irrigation and the growing of wheat and barley. Sana’a is located in this region. The highest point in Yemen is Jabal an Nabi Shu’ayb, at 3,666 meters (12,028 ft).The Rub al Khali in the east is much lower, generally below 1,000 metres, and receives almost no rain. It is populated only by Bedouin herders of camels.

Top Sites
  • Socotra Islands

    Facts: 134 Bird Species; 6 Endemics
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 432

    As of July 2018
    National Bird: Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus percivali
  • Number of endemics: 13 (10 of which are confined to Socotra Island)

    Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis, Socotra Buzzard Buteo socotraensis, Socotra Scops Owl Otus socotranus, Socotra Cisticola Cisticola haesitatus, Socotra Warbler Incana incanus, Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi, Socotra Sunbird Chalcomitra balfouri, Socotra Starling Onychognathus frater, Socotra Bunting Emberiza socotrana, Socotra golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus, Yemen Linnet Linaria yemenensis, Yemen Serin Crithagra menachensis, Socotra Sparrow Passer insularis, Abd al-Kuri Sparrow Passer hemileucus
  • iGoTerra Checklist of Socotra Island

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
  • iGoTerra Checklist of Yemen

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Middle East

    | By Richard Porter, Simon Aspinall, A Birch, John Gale, Mike Langman, Brian E Small | Christopher Helm | 2010 | Paperback | 384 pages, 176 colour plates, 636 colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780713676020 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Yemen Arab Tourism Agency

    YATA (Yemen Arab Tourism Agency); Airport Road, Street No 9, Sana`a (P O Box 1153);Tel: 9671 224236; fax 9671 251597. Efficient and willing. YATA run regular bird-watching tours, mostly for German agencies.
  • Yemen Society for the Protection of Wildlife

    Yemen Society for the Protection of Wildlife is the BirdLife International Affiliate for Yemen. Address: 29 Alger Street, PO Box 19759, Sana'a, Yemen Email:

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA NS Socotra

    InformationSatellite View
    The island is very isolated, home to a high number of endemic species; up to a third of its plant life is endemic. It has been described as "the most alien-looking place on Earth." The island measures 132 kilometres (82 mi) in length and 49.7 kilometres (30.9 mi) in width
  • WS Autma Protected Area

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The presence of a verdant and extensive cover has made the district's population bound to the raising of many numbers and types of animals and birds. This also has resulted in providing new sources of income for the residents of the district.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Socotra Eco-Tours

    Tour Operator
    This website will help you to discover Socotra island in the Arabian sea. May you be a fan of hiking and breathtaking views, you like long sandy beaches, wild life or you prefer underwater adventures, Socotra can always offer you something special.
Trip Reports
  • 2009 [11 November] - Ulf Ståhle - Yemen & Socotra

    Report PDF
    …his opportunity was a happy surprise as we also wanted to visit the breeding place for Jouanin’s Petrel, which is located at the western part of Socotra and only reachable by boat. The two-day pelagic to Sabuniy and Bindar di Shab were beyond all our expectations…
  • 2014 [01 January] - Phil Gregory - Socotra

    …We did get nice views of a couple of Persian Shearwater, a nice African tick for me, and as we got near the island a fairly brief and distant Jouanin’s Petrel showed, arcing along nicely but not very close, and that was it beyond lots of Masked Booby on the island, and a few Brown Booby…
Other Links
  • Birds of Yemen

    The Republic of Yemen is very rich in bird life. If one includes the island of Socotra over 360 species have been recorded. Among these are seventeen species (thirteen on the mainland and four on Socotra) which are found nowhere else in the world except in some cases neighbouring areas of south west Arabia. For these so-called endemics Yemen has a special responsibility and because of them, ranks as one of the most important countries in the Middle East for bird conservation.
  • Checklist

    This is a list of the bird species recorded in Yemen. The avifauna of Yemen includes a total of 432 species, of which 1 is endemic, 2 have been introduced by humans, and 25 are rare or accidental. 14 species are globally threatened.
  • Yemen Wildlife

    From the eco-tourism point of view, Yemen`s main attraction is its birdlife, which is particularly abundant during the spring and autumn migrations. At these times thousands of raptors cross the Bab-al-Mandeb straits between Yemen and Africa, but there are also many species that use the junction of land and sea along the Red Sea coast as a flight path between Africa and Europe. Whilst running a boat in this area, I have witnessed hundreds of exhausted birds land for a rest, picked up others from the sea, and even had one fall asleep on my sunglasses, whilst I was wearing them!

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