08 December 2021

Grey Francolin – Salwa area

Grey Francolin is a scarce breeding resident in Saudi Arabia with the first known record at Safwa on 18 November 1991 since when records were reported locally from Dhahran to Jubail in coastal areas with one in coastal sand dunes at Jubail from at least 12 September to 16 October 2000 and another at Sabkha al-Fasl 19 January 2004. Range expansion was mapped and thought likely to occur to the north of Jubail and east of Dhahran by Jennings 2010, but records actually declined sharply as it apparently failed to establish a self-sustaining population with the only record known since 2004, a sighting 12 March 2019 just outside Berri Gas Plant, Jubail. A thriving population was found in spring 2021 by Greg Askew, near Salwa, close to the Qatar border and have been seen again in October by myself and again in late November when Phil Roberts and I located 28 birds. The birds are very timid and generally stay under, or in, the trees where they are occasionally flushed or seen in flight. They call very loudly and often, but seeing them well is another matter. This time we found a couple of birds out in the open and took the below photos. The records from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where probably introduced, but possibly occurred as an overspill from birds introduced and established in Bahrain in 1981, where it is now common. The subspecies is Francolinus pondicerianus mecranensis known as Baluchistan Grey Francolin that occurs in arid south-eastern Iran and southern Pakistan. They are resident from eastern Arabia and Iran, throughout India to Sri Lanka where they occur near sea level in areas with trees, bushes and shrubs, including plantations, large parks, cultivated areas, or dry open woodland.