24 June 2011

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus) - Does it Summer in Arabia?

10/06/2011 – Dhahran Hills

I saw a 2nd calendar year Steppe Buzzard on 10th June in Dhahran, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which I thought was very late for a migrant, although possible. I then started asking other birders with far more knowledge of the region, and species, than me what was their opinion on the likelihood of Steppe Buzzard summering (staying throughout the summer) in Arabia.

These photographs are different to the ones I originally posted on this bird but from the same set of pictures.

The status of Steppe Buzzard in the region is as follows:-
Yemen - Passage across the Bab al Mandeb in November at least
Oman - Uncommon migrant & winter visitor. There are only two records in May (13th & 25th) and none for June.
UAE - Uncommon to rare autumn migrant, rarely in winter.
(Some confusion with migrant and wintering Long-legged Buzzards apparent).
Qatar – Rare winter visitor and passage migrant (late September to mid March) with only four records mentioned.
Saudi Arabia (Eastern Province) – Fairly regular, especially in the coastal zone during February & March with immature sometimes noted from April to early June. Recorded once each in July and August and more often from September to January. Usually singly with small peaks in February and November suggesting some passage movement at these times (Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Bundy, Connor & Harrison 1989).
Bahrain – Passage migrant and winter visitor.
Kuwait - Common passage migrant and rare winter visitor. It is rare by early May.
I contacted Yoav Perlman (http://nubijar.blogspot.com/) about the status of Steppe Buzzard in Israel, as this is the major route followed by most migrating Steppe Buzzards from their wintering grounds to breeding areas and received the following detailed information from him:-
Israel - One of the two main raptor species passing in massive numbers during spring passage (the pther being Eurasian Honey Buzzard). The median date of passage for adults (9th April) precedes that of juveniles (26th April) by more than two weeks for normal migration, for the bulk of Buzzards. However, lots of birds face a full range of problems, accidents and mishaps during thier northbound migration, and during May and early June we have many birds lingering in Israel (many hundreds nationwide as we speak is my guess). Many of them die from exhaustion. By late June most of these lingering migrants disapear (either migrate or die) and Shirihai mentions in his book (1996) June 26th as the rearguard of migration, but some birds oversummer (without breeding) in various places in Israel, especially in the Arava Valley over which most migration takes place. Further Steppe Buzzar breeds in small numbers (about 10 - 15 pairs) in northern Israel - Upper Galilee and Golan Heights.
This information from Israel and other data from Dick Forsman (pers comm.) said it is not unusual for young birds like the one I saw to have a delayed spring migration. This strongly suggests that the bird I saw was a late migrant, probably a bird that has wintered in Saudi Arabia, rather than a bird that may choose to summer or need to summer, due to injury or sickness. It did not look sick or injured in any way, but this remains a possibility due to the late date of the sighting.

I very much appreciate the information supplied by the following people: Tommy Pedersen (UAE), Jamie Buchan (Qatar), Simon Tull (Oman), Ian Harrison (Oman & Yemen), AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan (Kuwait), Yoav Perlman (Israel) and Dick Forsman.