State of Kuwait

Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus ©Mike Pope Website
Birding Kuwait

The State of Kuwait lays in the northeast part of the Arabian peninsular and in the northwest corner of the Arabian Gulf. To the north and west it borders Iraq and to the south and west Saudi Arabia. It has approximately 550km of coast, which is dominated by the large expanse of Kuwait Bay. The country has a surface area of about 18,000 sq km and a number of offshore islands in the Gulf of which only Failaka is inhabited. The other main islands of ornithological interest are the low-lying Bubiyan to the north and the small Kubbar Island known for its breeding terns. The topography is flat and occasionally undulating rising from the Arabian Gulf coast up to about 300 metres in the extreme south west. The Jal Az-Zour escarpment is the only significant topographical feature running for 80km from the north shore of Kuwait Bay and reaching a maximum elevation of 145 metres.The climate in Kuwait is characterised by very hot and dry summers and mild to cool winters. Mean temperatures are 14˚c in January and 37˚c in July. Rainfall is erratic and difficult to predict with some years experiencing over 200mm whilst less than 30mm can fall in a dry year. Most rain falls between November and May. There are no rivers in Kuwait just a few wadis such as the ‘out-of-bounds’ Wadi Al-Batin along the Iraq border in the northwest and the Wadi Ar-Rimam system inside SAANR. The nearest thing to a river is the drainage and sewage outfall into Kuwait Bay east of Jahra.

Vegetation is species-poor and consists of dwarf shrubs, perennial herbs and ephemerals with taller shrubs generally only being found in favoured locations such as along drainage channels. In relatively wet years the desert can become covered with a green hue as dormant plants spring to life but in dry years this is completely absent. Nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralism are the main land uses with overgrazing by camels, sheep and goats a widespread problem. Extensive mudflats can be found around Kuwait and Sulaibikhat Bays to the east of the city and surrounding Bubiyan Island in the north.Abdali, Al-Abraq Jahra and Wafra have natural oases and have been developed into traditional farm complexes often surrounded by conifer shelter belts and irrigated by wells and tanks to support a variety of crops. Urban areas are often planted with a few trees, shrubs and grass and well irrigated by sprinkler systems. These are tended by a largely immigrant workforce making urban areas green and a big attraction to migrant birds. The population is overwhelmingly concentrated in Kuwait City which has grown at a very fast rate illustrated by the building of no less than 7 rings roads at increasing distances from the city centre to accommodate the expanding city. The other main urban areas are Jahra and Ahmadi but in reality the vast majority of the coastal strip is developed.

Birders visiting Kuwait no longer require any sponsorship although a visa is required for entry. This is easily and cheaply obtained at the airport upon arrival but be prepared for slow service and a long queue. Once there the visitor will find Kuwait to be an exceptionally affluent and largely westernised country with a low crime rate and a well developed infrastructure.Kuwait is located in the extreme south-east corner if the Western Palearctic zoological region and lays on a cross-roads of several important migration routes between continents. One of these routes runs through Kuwait en-route from the eastern Caspian Sea down through Saudi Arabia and into eastern and central Africa. Another runs from eastern Europe, through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, across Kuwait and the northern Gulf and on into Pakistan and India. A very small proportion of the total avifauna are resident or indeed breed. Of the 300+ species recorded less than 20 species actually breed including 4 tern species on Kubbar Island. The main attraction of Kuwait for visiting birders is the migrants and wintering species many of which are difficult to see anywhere else in the region. These include the globally threatened species Crab Plover, Basra Reed Warbler, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Lesser Kestrel. Other big draws are wintering Shikra and Persian Wheatear as well as Grey Hypocolius, Socotra Cormorant, Lesser Sandplover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Babbler, Bank Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, Egyptian Nightjar, White-throated Robin, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Bridled, White-cheeked, Swift and Lesser Crested Terns, several wheatears and shrikes and the nomadic Dunn’s Lark, Black-crowned Finch-lark and Pale Rock Sparrow.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 363

    As at July 2018
  • iGoTerra Checklist

    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
  • Birds of the State of Kuwait

    | By George Gregory | George Gregory | 2005 | Paperback | 219 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9780955141607 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Kuwait

    | By A Sadiq, Al-Haddad & FA Al-Sidrawi | 2002 | Paperback | 252 pages, Col photos, dist maps, tabs | ISBN: 9789990632743 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Other Internet Resources

    In September Mike Pope and others published an immense coffee table book for which he was co-editor. It is the first of its kind for Kuwait and the Middle East that covered all the bird species recorded in Kuwait at the time. This was sponsored by KUFPEC and was a limited edition print run of 3,000 and proved to be popular and highly sought after. Once the print stock was depleted, KUFPEC agreed to Phase 2 of the project where we developed electronic derivatives of the book so that it could be made available to a wider local and international audience and the links for these derivatives are below Birds of Kuwait – A Comprehensive Visual Guide; electronic derivatives • Available to download from free from iTunes (developed after the above book was published) • Available to download as a .pdf from our partners in the development of the book: • The Birds of Kuwait Website; sponsored by KUFPEC:
  • Bird Monitoring and Protection Team (BMAPT)

    The Bird Monitoring and Protection Team (BMAPT) has the aims of monitoring and protecting both resident and migratory birds in Kuwait. Its functions include recording both common and rare birds, taking biometrics, monitoring birds in nature reserves and elsewhere, establishing and managing new reserves, and increasing public awareness of birds in Kuwait and of the necessity of protecting them. It is committed to the free flow of information about birds in Kuwait, and to close cooperation with Kuwait governmental bodies, and international ornithological and bird protection organizations
  • BirdLife

    Located at the south-east corner of the western Palearctic realm, Kuwait possesses a fairly rich avifauna despite its small size and harsh climate, with more than 280 species having been recorded; however, probably only 16 species breed on the mainland and only eight of them regularly, the rest being passage migrants or winter visitors. Species from the adjacent Indo-Malayan and Afrotropical realms from minor components of the avifauna, but records indicated.
  • Kuwait Birds

    This site is about wild birds in Kuwait: learning them, enjoying their beauty and observing them in nature. This nature conservation project developed by Biodiversity East and sponsored by Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC).
  • Kuwait Environmental Protection Society

    PO Box 1896, Safat 13019, Kuwait In Arabic & English - Working to create an environmental and scientific method of public thinking in order to establish the necessary remedial legislation for the protection of environmental against pollution…

Abbreviations Key

  • NR Al-Jahra Pool

    WebpageSatellite View
    The only significant area of non-marine wetland in the country, man-made by effluent (sewage plus a variety of pollutants) coming from Al-Jahra town and flowing across sandy sabkhah to the sea, forming stagnant, open, shallow pools and extensive beds of Phragmites. There are scattered halophytes on the sabkhah, and some old plantations of Tamarisk in poor condition.
  • NR Sabah Al-Ahmad

    eBird VisitsSatellite View
    The Sabah Al-Ahmad nature reserve occupies land that once served as an important base for Saddam Hussein's army during its invasion of Kuwait from 1990-1991.
  • Parks, Reserves, and Other Protected Areas

    InformationSatellite View
    The Protected Areas Division, together with the Wildlife Development Division and the Marine Organism Monitoring Division, is part of the Living Resource Department of the Environment Public Authority (EPA) of Kuwait.
  • Wetlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    Kuwait currently has one site designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 50,948 hectares
Trip Reports
  • 2011 [04 April] - Chris Lansdell (Oenanthe Birding Adventures)

    My now annual spring trip to Kuwait was in its 4th consecutive year and, this time, the tour was enjoyed by an extended group consisting of 3 Finns, 3 Germans and a Dane. A truly multi-national week…
  • 2011 [05 May] - Oscar Campbell

    PDF Report
    …Oscar raised the possibility of doing a short weekend trip to Kuwait to try and see the three birds of interest to us: Basra Reed Warbler, Dunn’s Lark and Afghan Babbler (a recent split). He had a good contact there who would be willing to guide us for a couple of days. After a bit of juggling, we managed to find a date which was suitable to us all and so, as they say, game on…
  • 2012 [04 April] - Martyn Kenefick

    PDF Report
    …There were at least six White-throated Robins, several Upcher's Warblers, four Rufous-tailed Scrub-robins, two female Ménétries’s Warblers and a particularly tame adult male Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush. Added to the mix were a Long-legged Buzzard, at least a dozen Blue- cheeked Bee-eaters, our first Common Cuckoo, three Eurasian Wrynecks, our only samamisicus Common Redstart and three Isabelline (Daurian) Shrikes…
  • 2014 [01 January] - Phil Gregory

    Mostly a list
  • 2015 [04 April] - Nigel Warren

    PDF Report
  • 2015 [12 December] - Derek Charlton

    ...We soon found that White-cheeked Bulbul, Marsh Harrier, Common Myna, Isabelline Shrike, Water Pipits, Black Kite and Laughing Doves were all common in the appropriate habitat....
  • 2017 [12 December] - Pekka Fagel & Peter Lansdown

    PDF Report
    Any birding trip has its highs and lows and in this respect Kuwait was quite normal, but the fact that one experienced birder gained 12 life ticks made this tour exceptional and our appreciation for Pekka and Peter enduring the frustrations of Kuwait bureaucracy was undeniable.
  • 2018 [04 April] - Christian Andersen Jensen

    PDF Report
    The purpose with this report is to give inspiration to others who plan to go birding in Kuwait and to share our experience
Other Links
  • Abdulrahman Al Sirhan; The Birds of Kuwait

    I am a Kuwaiti birdwatcher, in this blog I will publish my bird sightings and others together with photographs if they are of good quality or of rare birds. It will include birds and the site at which they have been seen, and of course their numbers. The reason behind this blog is to promote bird watching activity and encourage people into taking measures of protecting them together with their habitat, encourage setting up reserves for breeding and migrant birds, especially “Jahra East Outfall” which at the moment is being destroyed by camel and sheep herders and bird shooters, as bushes and reeds have been burned out and cut off by herders and overgrazed by camels and sheep, large bushes such as Ghardug Nitraria retusa have been reduced from more than 3m height to just less than one metre…
  • Mike Pope - Kuwait Birding 2012 onwards

    I am an avid birder, photographer and naturalist from South Africa who combines photographs and birding stories in my Kuwait Birding Blog to inspire and showcase both birders and non-birders alike about the amazing avian diversity this “Land of Sand” has to offer. All images on this Blog are the property of Mike Pope and cannot be used for any reason without express written permission. If you are going to redistribute any images online or elsewhere, a hyperlink to this particular page is of course courteous but mandatory. However, if you would like to make use of any of the images for any other purposes (commercial or other), please contact me at mikeinq8 AT gmail DOT com Instagram @jonbube
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Alsirhan

    Birds of Kuwait [plus other flora and fauna]
  • Photographer - Rashed al Hajji


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