19 September 2022

Eurasian Stone Curlew - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area 16 September, I came across a Eurasian Stone-curlew, in an area of wet sabkha amongst a group of smaller waders. The bird was calling occasionally (see my recording below) and although never close gave good and prolonged views until a passing sub-adult male Western Marsh Harrier frightened it off. This is the first time I have confidently seen the species in Saudi Arabia, after a record of one flying across the road in the late evening in the northwest of the Kingdom some years ago (not sufficient views for a first record for me though). I always thought I would find one at some point whilst birding, but I must admit not sitting out on some flooded sabkha but rather hiding away under a bush somewhere. The species is partially migratory with migratory populations breeding in Western Europe to Kazakhstan and Iran and wintering some 4000 km south and southwest in northern and eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It has a status as a very rare breeding resident, scarce passage migrant, rare winter visitor, although the seriously decreasing numbers of records of this species over recent years suggests it status may change to rare. Records in Saudi Arabia are widely spread as a passage migrant (Feb–Apr, Sep–Nov) and winter visitor (Nov–Feb). It previously bred in the Riyadh region, but it is uncertain if this is still the case.

Eurasian Stone-curlew calling (click play to listen):