30 July 2011

Northern Bald Ibis - News from Saudi Arabia

Northern Bald Ibis is the most threatened bird in the Middle East but this year there has been some good news regarding the species. Despite a tiny population of one pair breeding in Syria, the birds have enjoyed the best breeding season for three years and raised two healthy young. These birds have left the nest and started their migration with adults moving to the highlands of Ethiopia for the winter. It is unsure where the juvenile birds move to.

Saudi Wildlife Commission (SWC) helped to survey stop over areas of the species last year and is again doing the same this year. Mohamed Salima of SWA and his team have successfully located one of the adult birds being tracked by satellite (Odeinat), roosting on an electric pole in Saudi Arabia. The next morning he was seen together with his mate Zenobia. This is a great achievement, and was due to speedy mobilization and a good chain of communication. Another adult bird (Salamah) was located in Yemen, but the latest indication is that Salmah has returned from Yemen back into Saudi Arabia - maybe to join with Odeinat and Zenobia?

The wild population of Northern Bald Ibis was feared extinct in the Middle East, when in 2002 birds were found nesting in the mountains of Syria, near Palmyra - after not being seen in Syria for seventy years. Since then conservationists have sought to give the birds protection by working with local people and by using state-of-the-art technology to track birds' movements. The Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis was once widespread across north Africa and the Middle East. Aside from Syria, the only other breeding population occurs in Morocco, where just over 100 breeding pairs still occur in two coastal locations near Agadir, on the Atlantic Coast. The outlaying birds in Syria will be an important addition, but only if the population can be sustained (http://www.rspb.org.uk/)

Four birds are being tracked by satellite transmitters - two adults from their breeding grounds in Syria and two juveniles released from the semi-wild population in Turkey. A website has been set up by the RSPB and you can follow their daily journey here