Whilst birding the Jebal Hamrah with Greg Askew recently we came across a wheatear at the bottom of the escarpment in a largish wadi. It looked a little different, so we got out of the car and went and had a look. After a short while we saw the bird again and it turned out to be a female Hooded Wheatear. These birds are quite distinct with their large size and long thin bill and the females have reddish tails with restricted black.
They are a rare or scarce but widespread bird throughout the region and are most often encountered in barren, remote stretches such as those between Buwayb and Towqi in the Riyadh area and the Jebal Hamrah and Shedgum Escarpment areas of the Eastern Province. Greg saw a different female in the same general area a couple of weeks earlier and it is unclear if the birds are winter visitors, breeding residents or passage migrants. Further visits to the area may show more clearly their status in the region.
They are probably resident however, as I have seen birds in the summer months also. Ealsewhere in Saudi Arabia they are a rare but widespread breeding resident of Central Arabia. Also occurs at Najran, Northern Hejaz as well as the Gulf.
Jem Babbington is a keen birder and amateur photographer located in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia where he goes birding every day. Jem was born in England and is a serious local patch and local area birder who has been birding for almost forty years and has birded in more than fifty countries. Jem is learning to ring birds in Bahrain as a perfect way to learn more about the birds of the area. Saudi Arabia is a very much under-watched and under-recorded country.