State of Qatar

Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes ©Neil Morris Website
Birding Qatar

Bordered on three sides by the Arabian (Persian) Gulf and on its fourth (southern) side by Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a small desert state comprising mainly stone (jebel) desert and more limited areas of dune. It is one of the hottest countries in the world with summer temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius, and is certainly one of the driest, being the only country in the world with no natural standing fresh water. More than 90 per cent of the country’s land surface is saline, being inhospitable to all but the most halophytic of plants.

Despite this harsh, salty, hot and arid environment, Qatar can provide excellent birding from August through to May. Geographically, the peninsula of Qatar juts some 150 km northwards into the Arabian Gulf. The right wind conditions in spring, autumn and even winter can bring thousands of migrants flooding into the country.People and ‘progress’

The State of Qatar has an indigenous population of 250-300,000, supplemented by an immigrant workforce of more than 1.5 million. Oil and, especially, natural gas have fuelled Qatar’s meteoric development from poor, sleepy pearl fishing backwater to a modern affluent society with international investment interests and political ambitions. Per native capita, it is the richest country in the world.

Rapid development has created a stereotypical Middle Eastern landscape of skyscrapers and multi-lane highways. It has also brought parks, gardens, farms and freshwater lagoons – all sustained by partially treated effluent discharged from the bustling cities of Doha and Al Khor.

Birds and wildlife

As for birds, claims of the historic occurrence of exotic species such as Arabic Ostrich are now considered erroneous, though there is no doubt that the now extirpated Macqueen’s Bustard was once a regular winter visitor.

Urban areas now host the typical array of invasive, introduced and opportunistic Arabian-Asian species, including White-eared and Red-vented Bulbuls, the ubiquitous Common Myna, House Sparrow (of the eastern indicus group), Indian Silverbill, Laughing & Eurasian Collared Doves, Alexandrine & Ring-necked Parakeets and the occasional House Crow (which thankfully has yet to gain a strong foothold in the country).

In rural areas, characterised by seemingly unending miles of stone desert with scattered sprawling pivot farms, commonly found species include Spanish Sparrow, Namaqua Dove, Corn Bunting, Crested Larks and Grey Francolin. Of particular interest to the visiting birdwatcher will be resident and passage species such as Arabian Grey Shrike, Greater Hoopoe and Desert Larks, Lilith Owl, Indian Reef and Striated Herons, Indian Reed Warbler, Ferruginous Duck, Graceful Prinia, Green-backed (African) Swamphen, four forms of Stonechat, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin – plus of course some key target birds such as the Arabian endemic Socotra Cormorant, Menetries’s Warbler, Red-tailed Wheatear, Crab Plover, Cream-coloured Courser, Saunder’s and White-cheeked Terns, Black-crowned Sparrow-lark and the notoriously unpredictable (Grey) Hypocolius.

The peak periods to visit Qatar for birding are September-November and February to April, though birding can be good any time between August and May.

Top sites

All sites mentioned below are publicly accessible, though as with anywhere in the Middle East you should use common sense and respect local customs, and avoid birdwatching and photography near sensitive buildings/areas.

Top Sites
  • Abu Nahkla

    InformationSatellite View
    Although ear-marked for development, this is currently Qatar's only major area of ‘hospitable’ freshwater. As well as wintering herons and ducks in abundance, the site holds waders, gulls, terns and passage migrants. Breeding birds include herons, Indian Reed Warblers and African (Green-backed) Swamphen. In winter, small numbers of Socotra Cormorants mingle with tens of thousands of Great Cormorants. Warning: Do not venture along the prison side of the lagoons or you are likely to be asked to show ID papers and to move on.
  • Al Khor and Al Thakira

    ArticleSatellite View
    The east coast conurbations of Al Khor and Al Thakira nestle on the shore of a large lagoon and harbour with extensive stretches of dense mangrove. The mangroves undoubtedly hold good numbers of birds but are extremely difficult to explore and often unproductive. In winter, hundreds of herons and waders are present in the lagoon, accompanied by gulls and terns. Al Khor Corniche (promenade) and Al Thakira slipway provide good vantage points for scanning the mudflats and water.
  • Fuwairit Beach and sandbar

    InformationSatellite View
    In winter, large numbers of terns and many gulls gather on the low tide sand bar. Pallas’s and Steppe Gulls predominate, along with Lesser Crested Terns. The nearby lagoon provides shelter for herons, roosting waders and terns. In spring and autumn, migrants can be found in the village, mangroves and salt marsh scrub surrounding the lagoon. Socotra Cormorant can be seen all year round in small numbers.
  • Irkaya Farm

    Qatar's premier biodiversity hotspot whose pivot fields and surrounding 'jebel' desert have produced 238 species of birds, representing some 76% of all species recorded in Qatar. Access to the farm is currently being formalised, though birders may continue to arrive ad-hoc and will be allowed entry. The farm is soon to come under full protection of the Ministry of Environment and will be declared a national wildlife refuge. Unfortunately, locals regularly attempt to access the farm to hunt and trap the abundant seasonal wildlife. Although quiet in the stiflingly hot summer months, the farm is worth visiting anytime from August (although it is still very hot and humid at this time) through to May. Regular sights include dozens of harriers of three species, six species of lark as well as migrant pipits, chats, thrushes, warblers etc. There is also an an interesting selection of breeding species such as Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Red-wattled Lapwing, Arabian Grey Shrike (of the form aucheri – formerly Southern Grey Shrike) and Lilith Owl.
  • Khor Al-Adaid (The Inland Sea)

    InformationSatellite View
    Currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Khor Al-Adaid (aka Khor Al Udeid) is lauded by travel agencies as a top tourist attraction. If dune bashing is your thing, then maybe it is worth a visit; but do not go there expecting to see lots of wildlife, especially birds. Apart from a few distant Greater Flamingos and the odd pair of nesting Western Ospreys, the area offers little of real interest to the visiting birder. Do not be mislead by articles describing thousands of birds; these are written by those who have never picked up a pair of binoculars, let alone birdwatched in the area!
  • Umm Bab

    InformationSatellite View
    This picnic area on the west coast is a somewhat disappointing sight to behold, being heavily littered and soiled with the detritus of human beach goers. But in the palms and trees can be found migrants, in both spring and autumn. In fact, this whole stretch of coastline is worth exploring when birds are on the move north or south. The star bird is Hypocolius, which occurs in small flocks, albeit unpredictably on its journeys to and from Saudi, Bahrain and Iran. Occasionally, groups overwinter, though this phenomenon is becoming increasingly rare. Socotra Cormorant can often be seen offshore in small numbers.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 211

    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 Qatar

    | By Frances Gillespie | Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing | 2014 | Paperback | 32 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9789992195895 Buy this book from
  • Common Birds of Qatar

    | By Hanne Eriksen, Jens Eriksen & Frances Gillespie | Frances Gillespie | 2011 | Paperback | 248 pages, 400 col photos, dist maps | ISBN: 9789948157472 Buy this book from
  • The 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
  • Friends of the Environment Centre

    FEC is striving in collaboration with the Government, NGOs and the Private Sector to achieve better bird conservation goals through field surveys, and offering effective environmental educational and awareness programmes focusing on students, families and local communities .
  • Qatar Bird Records Committee (QBRC)

    The recognised authority for the recording of wild birds in Qatar, QBRC reviews submissions from visiting and resident birders and maintains the Qatar List. The three-man committee comprises Jamie Buchanan (National Recorder), Simon Tull and Neil Morris (Secretary)
  • Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG)

    A friendly international membership group whose interests span culture, social history, the natural world and archaeology in Qatar. Monthly evening seminars are supplemented by field outings led by local resident experts
  • Qatar Natural History Group - Bird Club

    …the page on the Natural History Group that deals with the Qatar Bird Club. It gives notices of meetings and lists the newsletters published…
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Qatar Birding

    Mailing List
    Qatarbirding is a discussion group related to wild birds in the State of Qatar, their observation, study and conservation. Qatarbirding is not intended for discussions about captive birds, falconry or the hunting of birds.
Trip Reports

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

  • 2014 [03 March] - David Karr

    PDF Report
    On arrival at the locked gate, I sighted a small flock feeding on the ground. These were Namaqua Doves, which immediately flew off once I had alighted from Wayne’s vehicle. I was soon to learn from Wayne that birding from a vehicle was almost mandatory as most species spooked once they spot a biped…
  • 2017 [03 March] - Stig Jensen & Jon Lehmberg

    PDF Report
    As we found out, Qatar is only relatively unexplored since there’s a small birding community, apparently mainly consisting of expats, here. Even for Danes such as us, Qatar is a very small and flat country, and since it’s easy to get there, to get around, to find accommodation (though mainly/exclusively in and around Doha) and places to eat, we wonder why so fewbirders visit. The most likely explanation is that there are no birds here which are impossible or indeed difficult to find anywhere else. It’s a shame really, because the country is definitely worth a visit, and we certainly didn’t regret spending a few days.
  • 2018 [07 July] - Valentin Moser

    PDF Report
    I did a stopover on the 6th of July in/around Doha. The highlights were Greater/Lesser Sand Plover, White-eared Bulbul and Lesser Crested Tern, as well as an insight in a complex country. In this report I give some advice how to plan the stopover, birding sites and some general information.
Other Links
  • Qatar Biodiversity

    PDF Article
    The government has placed increased emphasis on the conservation of biologicalresources. The marine and terrestrial eco-systems of Qatar includes several importantspecies of flora and fauna of bio-diversity value, a few of which are believed to bethreatened and endangered…
  • Neil G Morris - Birds & Wildlife

    Photo Blog
  • Simons Birding Blog

    Birding blog and photographic record of wildlife in Qatar…
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Dileep Anthikad

    Photography facilitated me to see the world around me from a different angle and portrays it in a natural and unique way…
  • Photographer - John Thompson

    Probably the best single collection of bird images from Qatar published online.
  • Photographer - Neil Morris

    Fine photographs of birds and other fauna from British birder currently resident in Qatar…

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