21 October 2023

Eurasian Bittern – Jubail

Whilst birding in Jubail 20 October 2023, Phil found a Eurasian Bittern on the side of the track under a small bush near the reed beds. Unfortunately, the bird soon moved into cover and disappeared. This is the first time Phil, or I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia so was a very nice find. This is a species we have always thought we would find at this site. The only photo I managed is very poor but you can see it is a Eurasian Bittern.

The species was thought to be a vagrant in the Eastern Province, prior to 2000 with the only records being as follows:

One Hofuf Lakes, 21 May 1976, 

One Dhahran, 24 November 1978, 

One Jawb, on the northern edge of the Rub’ al-Khali, 25 September 1980

One Abqaiq, 11-17 December 1982

Three Abqaiq, 19-20 October 1983

One Abqaiq, 14-21 December 1984


I then recorded birds as follows:

One bird calling six time between 19:00 -20:00, Dhahran Hills, Eastern province, 24 March 2020

One bird calling once 00:00 – 01:00 Dhahran Hills, Eastern Province, 31 March 2020

In the autumn I change the location of where I was recording and had a minimum of three further birds as follows:

A minimum of three birds calling 21 times 17:50, Sabkhat Al Fasl, Eastern Province, 12 October 2020 

One bird calling 34 times 17:45, Sabkhat Al Fasl, Eastern Province, 13 October 2020


These additional records suggest the species may not be so rare in the Eastern Province as previously thought. 


The recently published Birds of Saudi Arabia has the status as a rare passage migrant and possible breeding migrant. They are rare but widespread on migration through Saudi Arabia, passing on a broad front, mainly in central and western regions of the Kingdom. Records as late as December suggest some might spend the winter in the Kingdom and it has been heard booming several times at Khafrah Marsh in March, suggesting possible breeding. In November 2009 there were 30 birds together near Zulfi and in 2016 there were some incredible records with 15 birds 5 November 25 kilometres east of Zulfi and then six birds about 40 kilometres north of first area 11 November 2016. These birds were seen resting under the shade of some short trees, scattered over a small area. During the same period 40 birds were seen sporadically in Sakaka, Al Jouf, 7-14 November 2016.