20 Feb 2021

Eurasian Bittern – Eastern Province

One Some very interesting news has been gathered in 2020 with the recording of Eurasian Bittern in two different places the Eastern province. In spring I recorded nocturnal migrant birds and recorded two separate Eurasian Bitterns as follows:

One bird calling six time between 19:00 -20:00, Dhahran Hills, Eastern province, 24 March 2020

One bird calling once 00:00 – 01:00 Dhahran Hills, Eastern Province, 31 March 2020

In the autumn I change the location of where I was recording and had a minimum of three further birds as follows:

A minimum of three birds calling 21 times 17:50, Sabkhat Al Fasl, Eastern Province, 12 October 2020 

One bird calling 34 times 17:45, Sabkhat Al Fasl, Eastern Province, 13 October 2020

 

Magnus Robb kindly provided the sonograms and commented “in my opinion they can only be from three individuals, given that the calling rate per individual is pretty slow in this species. In top sonogram the first and third calls are Grey Heron and the three other calls with all their energy near the bottom are, in my opinion, three different Bitterns. In the bottom sonogram there are two calls of different individuals. The first looks like it is the second Bittern (4th call in all) from the other sonagram. The second could be either of the two others, if indeed there are only three individuals”.


Prior to these records the species was thought to be a vagrant in the Eastern Province, with the only records being as follows:

One Hofuf Lakes, 21 May 1976, 

One Dhahran, 24 November 1978, 

One Jawb, on the northern edge of the Rub’ al-Khali, 25 September 1980

One Abqaiq, 11-17 December 1982

Three Abqaiq, 19-20 October 1983

One Abqaiq, 14-21 December 1984

 

These additional records suggest the species may not be so rare in the Eastern Province as previously thought. For some identification criteria and examples of Eurasian Bittern calls see this excellent Sound Approach page: Eurasian Bittern - Sound Approach

 

The recently published Birds of Saudi Arabia has the status as a rare passage migrant and possible breeding migrant. They are rare but widespread on migration through Saudi Arabia, passing on a broad front, mainly in central and western regions of the Kingdom. Records as late as December suggest some might spend the winter in the Kingdom and it has been heard booming several times at Khafrah Marsh in March, suggesting possible breeding.

In November 2009 there were 30 birds together near Zulfi and in 2016 there were some incredible records with 15 birds 5 November 25 kilometres east of Zulfi and then six birds about 40 kilometres north of first area 11 November 2016. These birds were seen resting under the shade of some short trees, scattered over a small area. During the same period 40 birds were seen sporadically in Sakaka, Al jouf, 7-14 November 2016. 




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