24 Jun 2012

Eurasian Spoonbill - Dammam Port Mangroves

I made another visit to Dammam Port Mangroves a couple of days ago at high tide and saw a juvenile Eurasian Spoonbill amongst the small wader flock. This site is the best place to see Eurasian Spoonbill in the Eastern Province as far as I am aware with birds seen regularly throughout the year. This species has obviously become more common in the Eastern Province over the years as I have seen quite a few now and they were a scarce bird in the late 1980's. Other birds seen here included 50+ Greater Sand Plovers, five Eurasian Curlew, 15 Saunder's Terns, one Western Great Egret and six Indian Reef Herons. One the way out of the site I saw a House Crow flying across the road.
Saunder's Terns

One word of caution for anyone who may be thinking of birding this site, and that is the local coast guard are very active here. They do not really like me being there and certainly object to the camera hence the lack of photographs from this site. They do tolerate me when I show my identification card but be aware they will more than likely stop you if you go there. They have always been very friendly to me but have asked me to lave on a few occasions, although allowed me to stay on many more occasions.


  1. Dear Jem,

    Thanks for this post.

    I wonder why are these Saunder's and not Little?
    To me, only the one at the front seems like a good candidate for a Saunder's if i don't count the bill colouration (sharply demarcated black tip).

    These two are so look alike that it would be good to get more identification tools from people like you who regularly see the two together.


  2. Itai,

    I too think the birds at the back (out of focus) are Little terns but the front bird is the one that I think is Saunder's although I could be wrong as I find these birds difficult at the best of times! Birds here that look in all other respects to be Saunder's terns, even those breeding on the ofshore islands where only Saunder's is meant to occur, occassionally have bill patterns like the front bird. It may be better to be in a place where only one occurs and then at least you can be reasonably confident in what you are seeing.



  3. Hi Jem and thanks for your quick reply.

    Do you have any flight shots of these birds? anything to see their rump and upper-tail coverts?
    I am not sure how strong character the bill colouration is? but it is mentioned in all field guides.

    According to the new edition of Birds of the Middle East, both Little and Saunder's Tern are breeding in Eastern Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, so there might be mixed breeding colonies.


    1. Itai,

      I do not have any flight shots of these birds I am afraid.

      Both Terns do breed in the Eastern Province but they have different breeding preferences with Little Tern preferring freshwater or brackish habitat slightly inland from the coast (+/-200 pairs) and Saunders Tern is a marine species (+/-1000 pairs) breeding near the coast and on offshore islands. They do not have mixed colonies, at least theyhave never been recorded breeding together, although they can be seen on migration together on the coast.

      Some of fhe Little Terns that occur come from Iraqi islands at the head of the Arabian Gulf, and these birds have been described as a sperate subspecies Stern albifrons praetermissa, although not followed by most authorities. These birds, and many we get here on migration here, have a greyer rump than nominate Little Tern (still less than many Saunders Terns) but otherwise have the same forehead patch and two black outer primaries as Little Tern.


  4. Wow! This is indeed a very cool page. Lovely photos too.