02 June 2023

Arabian Waxbill – Taif

Whilst birding some small valleys inside Taif city we came across a reasonable flock of Arabian Waxbill Estrilda rubibarba. This species is a rather scarce resident of the Tihama region where they have been seen on Jebal Faifa summit and at Jebal Gaha. Birds have also been seen near Tanoumah, Al Baha and as far north as Taif where they can be seen at Wadi Thee Gazelle and several wadis in the town itself, such as the one we saw them at. The Arabian Waxbill is endemic to Saudi Arabia and Yemen and occurs in the mesic uplands of the Tihamah foothills, occasionally straying onto the lowland Tihamah proper. The species is described as scarce in southern Saudi Arabia and the population is suspected to be in decline due to habitat loss as a result of the increasing use of modern agricultural techniques. They are highly social, and occur from 250-2,500 m in fertile cultivated Wadis, plains, rocky hillsides and terraced slopes, usually with a dense cover of trees and bushes. The species roosts communally in this dense vegetation, and recently fledged juveniles have been recorded in May. It has become closely associated with regularly irrigated agricultural areas with flowing water and is one of the more difficult of the Arabian Endemics to see.