24 December 2020

Large gathering of Hypocolius - Uqair

Hypocolius is a species that many birdwatchers would like to see as it is a family on its own. They are quite difficult to see as they occur in regions that are not so easy to access like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Hypocolius is a short-distance migrant. Small numbers remain in western Iran throughout year but the majority migrate south and east to their main wintering areas in southern Iran, Pakistan, western India, west and central Saudi Arabia, and Arabian Gulf States (notably Bahrain). Departure from the breeding areas mainly occurs in August with birds arriving back in April. In Saudi Arabia as a whole, they are an uncommon, but may be a locally common winter visitor to Central Arabia, Northern Hejaz, Hejaz and Northern Red Sea. Flocks of over 100 birds have been recorded in Riyadh each winter. This winter more than 150 birds are present near Uqair fort and I managed to take a few photos of the birds despite them being very flighty and not really allowing close approach. It was an amazing sight, seeing so many birds flying in all directions calling to each other and occasionally landing in palm trees to feed. This is easily the largest number I have seen together in Saudi Arabia and hopefully the birds will remain through the winter.