Whilst in the southwest of the Kingdom in April, Phil Roberts and I came across a group of eight mainly second calendar year Steppe Eagles. The birds appeared to be migrating along the escarpment edge.
It is diffuclt to know if these birds were wintering birds from the region moving north or birds from Africa that had crossed into Arabia via the Bab El Mandib straights in Yemen (although most do not do this in spring but move north through Egypt and Israel. Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis is a common migrant and winter visitor to the south-west, northern Hejaz and Central Arabia where up to 1000 birds have been recorded in a small area.
It is an uncommon winter visitor to other regions. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) states it is a common winter visitor arriving in early September and departing in late March with stragglers lingering into April.
In earlier years mainly found in proximity to waste disposal sites. Now with the advent of extensive farming activity over much of the region there are fewer large concentrations and a tendency for small groups to take up winter territories on pivot irrigated fields.
In early autumn when the ground is prepared for the sowing of winter wheat shambling groups following the plough have been observed. In the Eastern Province birds pass south-west from September through November regular from October through March on the northern plains from Nayriyyah westwards to Dibdibah and south to around Hanidh.
Once over 60 on the steppe area and in October 1984 there were 66 at Haradh. Elsewhere scarce and irregular. Wintering birds in the Eastern Province are almost always dark sub-adults.
In April a small passage has been noted across the northern steppe consisting of predominantly pale first-year birds. Winters to the west in good numbers around Riyadh, Al-Kharj and the plains of the north-central Najd.
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.
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