19 December 2011

Taraut Bay - Location Details

Taraut Bay on the Gulf coast east of Qatif and north of Dammam is the single most important site for passage and wintering water-birds on the Saudi sector of the Arabian Gulf coast. This is a large, shallow, sandy (and in places muddy) bay, with one of the richest and most diverse 'inter-tidal' habitats in the Arabian Gulf. The bay is very sheltered, and thus is not buffeted by the wind and really assumes its importance as a wintering and passage site for water birds, especially shorebirds. In spring 1991 more than 20,000 water birds were present, with numbers peaking at the end of April and the first two weeks of May, whilst in 1991/92, approximately 58,000 water birds over-wintered. Waders occurring in large numbers both in winter and on passage include; Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Broad-billed Sandpiper. There are two islands, Za'l and Tarut; the latter is connected to the mainland by a bridge and is almost wholly developed. During low tide, many sand banks are exposed and the extensive sand and mud flats receive nutrients from Qatif oasis which feed the mangroves, sea-grasses and salt marshes. The rich waters also support an important shrimp and fishing industry, all of which attracts many birds to the area.

It has been tentatively estimated that 260,000 waders winter on the Saudi Arabian Gulf coast and up to four million in the whole Arabian Gulf. As a result the intertidal zone of the Gulf coast is regarded as one of the world’s five major wintering areas for waders, along with north-west Africa, Australia, northwest Europe and the northern coast of South America. The number of waders stopping off to refuel in the Gulf during migration in Spring and Autumn could be of the same magnitude as the numbers present in winter (Zwarts et al 1991). Tarut Bay has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International.

Specialties occurring at the location include:-
Pallas's Fish Eagle
White-tailed Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Indian Reef Egret

Lesser Crested Tern
White-cheeked Tern
Bridled Tern  
Caspian Tern
Saunder’s Tern
Grey Plover

Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Kentish Plover
Bar-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Curlew
Terek Sandpiper
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Ruddy Turnstone
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Crab Plover
Great Knot