23 May 2017

Ringing Grey-headed Swamphen - Jubail

Whilst ringing in Jubail we caught a Grey-headed Swamphen in a mist net. This is quite a feat as they are large and heavy birds that seldom fly. It was feeding near to the net when I arrived to check if anything had been trapped and the bird flew and landed in the bottom shelf where I extracted it quickly. This is the fourth Grey-headed Swamphen we have trapped and ringed at the site and they are always good to handle. The splitting of Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio into five species means that Grey-headed Swamphen P. poliocephalus is by far the commonest species in the Region, comprising the nominate, caspius and seistanicus, though the validity of the last two is still debated. Swamphens from Saudi Arabia now comprise both breeding Grey-headed Swamphens in the Eastern Province and African Swamphen P. madagascariensis which is a vagrant with two records. A record of an adult at KAUST near Jeddah in September 2013 remained for at least three weeks before being killed by a car and two together at Dhahran percolation pond in December 2014 for several days. The fact these birds have been recorded breeding at this site and the records from birders and ringers (where DNA samples were collected from a feather, for correct identification) has helped protect the site from development and partly encouraged the protection of it as a reserve.
Grey-headed Swamphen