27 January 2021

Red-tailed Wheatear in pivot field - Al Wannan

Whilst birding the pivot irrigation fields around Al Wannan on 30 October I saw an odd-looking wheatear. I was looking directly into the sun, with the Wheatear in a field with very little plant growth. The bird was some distance away but gradually came closer and eventually right outside the car. Unfortunately, the light was miserable and the resulting photos did not turn out as well as they may have done. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe chrysopygia, a species normally found on boulders or jebals and not in irrigation fields and this is the first time I have located one in such habitat. The Red-tailed Wheatear is an uncommon winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with birds occurring from late September until early April, especially in the vicinity of jebals, other rocky outcrops, dry scrub areas and semi-desert. It breeds in an area from northeast Turkey through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and western Pakistan while it winters to the south from southern Iraq, across the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India.