16 February 2024

Steppe Gulls – Al Uqair

At first light, along the main beach at Al Uqair, I came across a couple of Steppe Gulls. Although Steppe Gull is common, it is not often possible to get close views, as they spend time out on the islands in Half Moon Bay. Abqaiq rubbish dump is a good place to see them but has become very difficult to access in recent years. Steppe Gull barabensis, is a taxon making up approximately 80-90% of the large white-headed gulls in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. These birds leave their steppe breeding grounds in August and are thought to migrate along the coast of the Caspian Sea, then cross northwest Iran, through the Tigris valley and on to the Arabian Gulf. They start appearing in the Jubail, Dhahran and Al Uqair areas from mid-August and build in number through the winter. It is a common passage migrant and very common winter visitor from mid-August to April.