11 January 2023

Grey Francolin – Salwa area

I recently visited the Salwa area in the hope I may be able to get better photographs of Grey Francolin. This 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 near Salwa, close to the Qatar border and have been seen again on each of my visits to the area. The birds are very timid and generally stay under, or in, the trees where they are occasionally flushed or seen in flight and call loudly. This time Phil noticed a bird in a set of allotments at relatively close range allowing the below photos to be taken. The records from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia were 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.