19 Jan 2012

Eurasian Spoonbills – Dammam Port Mangroves

A visit to Dammam Port Mangroves proved quite successful as the tide was fully in and all the birds had been pushed up to the near end of the mangroves where they were easily visible. There were large numbers of waders, terns and herons present but the best birds were eight European Spoonbill. Six adults and two 2nd calendar year birds were present and this was a very large flock for the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The species winters in Africa, Mediterranean region, Nile Valley, Red Sea (where resident), Southern Iraq and Iran and south-east Asia. The Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia by Bundy, Connor & Harrison 1989 states that Eurasian Spoonbill is a rare and irregular visitor with about twelve records, almost all from the coast and usually involving immature birds. It also states that they usually occur singly although five or six were present in December 1979, four on 7th April 1983 and eleven on 13th December 1984. There is no well-marked pattern to the records though November to December, April and June account for most sightings. I have seen a number of birds in Saudi Arabia since I have been here including an adult feeding at the side of the road in a canal at Sabkhat Al Fasl (Jubail) on 21st July 2011 and two others fying over the main marsh on the same date. I saw a single juvenile at the same site on 28th July 2011 and three there on 4th August 2011. None of my records fall within the period mentioned by Bundy et al of occurance and it will be interesting to see if I can work out any pattern over the next few years.
Eurasin Spoonbill
 Eurasin Spoonbill
 Eurasin Spoonbill (2nd Calendar Year bird second left)
Eurasin Spoonbill (2nd Calendar Year bird second left)

Other birds included two Gull-billed Terns, three Western Great Egret, 17 Grey Plover, 28 Indian Reef Heron, 33 Grey Heron, 37 Caspian Terns, 44 Eurasian Oystercatcher, 61 Eurasian Curlew, 127 Common Redshank and 150+ Bar-tailed Godwit. The small waders like Little Stint and others obviously roost elsewhere as none of these were seen and it is the commonest wader along the coast at present. Many of the herons were using the mangroves themselves to rest in but the waders and terns were on the sandy substrate as were the Eurasian Spoonbills.
Indian Reef Heron (white morph)

On the way out of the site I saw a flock of 12 Common Starlings along the main causeway and eight House Crow perched on the sea wall at various places along the same road.
One point worth mentioning here is that this area is near to the main Dammam Port and is quite a sensitive area and I obtained permission from the Coast Guard to take pictures of the Spoonbills as normally you are not allowed a camera in the area. Bird-watching with binoculars is not a problem although caution should be exercised as the Coast Guard are normally positioned in the area. Having said that every time they have spoken to me they have been very polite and courteous, as I have been to them, and I have not been stopped from bird-watching here.


  1. Hi Jem

    Thx for the valuable information. Can you recommenced a bird guide or birder to contact in the Jubail area. I am visting for a week only and would like to bird around. thx in advance . kind regards Johan Taljaard info@istecsafety.com

  2. Carien

    As far as I am aware there are no birders in the Jubail area. Phil and I go there most weekends but currently Sabkhat Al Fasl is closed and all gates locked with no access so we will not be going until they are reopened. The corniche area, Abu Ali Island (if you can get access to it through security gates and SAF are the places to go. Deffi park is good tto but probably not so in the middle of summer. All these sites are described under the Briding Locations tab at the top of the page. Click on the link and it tells you what birds to expect and details of how to get to the locations.

    Please can you let me know what you see when you are here via the contact me tab at the top of the page.

    Hope this is of some help.