18 November 2023

Over one hundred 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 several hundred birds in every winter since 2020. 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 birds taking the total to about twenty birds. We then started seeing a few flocks of 10 plus birds flying over all heading south. Eventually some started to land in the palm trees but getting close was difficult on foot and over the next hour we were present we eventually saw a conservative number of 100-150 birds. 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 three winters a large flock of about 100 birds has been at Haradh and these birds in Uqair.