04 November 2023

Hufuf House Sparrow – Salwa

'Hufuf Sparrow' Passer (domesticus/indicus) hufufae was described by Ticehurst & Cheesman, 1924, from Hufuf Saudi Arabia, and which also occurs southwards to the UAE and northern Oman. This Sparrow is currently a subspecies of House Sparrow but has quite a few distinguishing features. Jennings states that the status in Arabia: pre-1984, hufufae near Hufuf Oasis, perhaps eastern Saudi Arabia coastal area and possibly UAE/Oman, but indicus mostly in Arabian port areas, likely of dhow/ship assisted origin. Post-1984, indicus being more adaptable to commensal behavior, has expanded quickly into oil, agriculture & commerce based settlements and hufufae has been swamped out of existence by hybridisation and being out-competed. There are not many records I know of, of hufufae in Saudi Arabia recently so I was keen to see if we could locate some or if Jennings comments held true. Our visits to the Uqayr, earlier this year, recorded a few likely looking birds, but we were going much closer to the UAE boarder to the Salwa area and hoped we may locate some here, where we saw some birds last year that were good candidates. Whilst in the Sawa area, in late October, we visited some small holdings and saw a large group of 100 plus sparrows, dropping down into small fields to eat loose seed. Many looked like typical indicus birds but a few were paler with smaller bibs and bills and greyish rump and uppertail coverts and washed out rufous in the wings all good indications of hufufae. The below photos are some of the ones I took of the likely hufufae birds.