24 June 2013

Ferruginous Ducks – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the local ‘patch’ on Saturday I found a pair, male and female, Ferruginous Ducks. This is an unusual summer record for Dhahran, although the species did breed here in the past. I have seen the species once before here but it was on 15 November 2012, a more typical date. The Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN 2013 Red Data List due to the species range fluctuating considerably from year to year, particularly in Asia. There have been rapid declines in Europe, but evidence of declines in the Asian populations is sparse. The current global population is estimated at c.163,000-257,000 individuals. They breed principally in South-western Asia (east to China and south to Pakistan and India), Central and Eastern Europe, and North Africa. The wintering range overlaps with the breeding range and extends to the Middle East, North-east and West Africa and South-East Asia. Below are a few record shots of the birds.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ferruginous Duck is primarily a winter visitor occurring from September to April, although the species has also been recorded breeding, mainly in the Eastern Province, but also near Riyadh, on the western coast near the Red Sea and in the extreme north-west. Birds are seen on wetlands and are often difficult to locate as they are very adept at hiding in the reeds and other vegetation and rarely come out of hiding to open water areas.
In the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia breeding of this bird was first confirmed from Abqaiq in 1983 followed by Al-Hasa lagoons incuding Al Asfar Lake where 10 breeding pairs were noted in 1983 and the species bred regularly around that time. A count of 150 birds, mostly males was once reported in July near Dhahran, at a site where a female and ducklings had been recorded on the same day and 87 birds were recorded at Abqaiq in September. The Atlas of Breeding birds of Arabia states that there might be 100 breeding pairs in the Eastern Province.