24 November 2022

Large gathering of Hypocolius - Uqair

Phil Roberts and I went to Uqair in the hope of finding some Hypocolius as they here had been a large flock of 150 birds in winter 2020. The birds did not return as far as I am aware in 2021 but we hoped we may get lucky. We arrived just as it was getting light and saw a few White-eared Bulbuls flying around but no Hypocolius. After about 15 minutes I saw a single male bird fly and land in a tree, but at some distance. We walked around the area and during the next 30 minutes saw a few more singles taking the total to about ten birds. We then started walking back towards the car and started having quite a few flocks of 20 plus birds flying over all heading south-west. Eventually some started to land in the palm trees but getting close was difficult on foot. Over the two hours we were present we eventually saw a conservative number of 400 birds with some of the best photos I took shown below. This is easily the largest gathering of the species I have seen and was really an amazing spectacle. Hypocolius are quite difficult to see worldwide as they occur in regions that are not so easy to access like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Hypocolius is mainly a short-distance migrant, although small numbers remain in western Iran throughout the 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 for many years and in the last two winter a large flock of about 100 birds has been at Haradh.