Trapping of Falcons in Jordan

As part of the “People and Birds of the Southern Levant” project, a study was carried out on illegal trapping of large falcons in eastern Jordan. The results were published in Sandgrouse (Khoury et al 2020). The report provides a much needed counterpoint to recent media outputs that glorify modern falconry in the region as a practice steeped in ancient desert tradition and a ‘heritage sport’.

In reality, modern falconry has evolved into a widespread sport in the Gulf region, stimulating the captive breeding and release programs of species targeted by falconers, such as Macqueen’s Bustard, establishing reserves for falconers, and other novel activities like falcon “beauty contests” and races.

The higher demand for wild falcons has elevated black market prices and thus trapping pressure on large falcons like the Saker and Lanner that are globally or regionally threatened. Illegal falcon trapping in eastern Jordan started in the 1950s and accelerated in the 1980s to meet rising demand for wild falcons due to the rise of modern falconry practices fuelled by growing wealth in the Gulf region.

Trafficking is apparently well organized in the Middle East region, with the help of social media outlets, and much of the falcon smuggling remains undetected at border crossings.

Fares Khoury, Cheryl Makarevicz, Abdel-Razzaq Al-Hmoud and Steve Mithen (2020): The illegal trapping of large falcons in Jordan. Sandgrouse 42, 239-247.

Bird News, 2020

The Jordan Bird Records Committee (JBRC) accepted in 2020 various new reports of rare birds in Jordan including the 10th record of Black Vulture at Azraq last winter. A Crested Honey Buzzard in Aqaba during March was apparently part of a small group that stayed for the winter. Groups of White-cheeked Terns were recorded along the beaches of Aqaba during two successive years (2017-2018); these included fledged juveniles getting food from their parents, although nesting probably occurred on islands further south. A Black bush Robin in April 2019 in the city of Aqaba was the fifth national record; three out of the five records were in Aqaba. The second and third records of Yellow – browed Warbler in Jordan included a bird at Burqu’, eastern Jordan, during September and another in Aqaba in late 2019. For more details see (JBRC).

Significant records of birds include the first two confirmed breeding events of Ferruginous Ducks in Jordan. Several chicks and juveniles were seen accompanying their parents at Azraq and the Aqaba Bird Observatory during May-June 2020. Both breeding reports were located in protected areas. Even after decades of over pumping of ground-water, there is some good news from Azraq, such as the extension of the reserve to include parts of the mudflat close to the wetland reserve. The mudflat or “Qa’” is occasionally flooded in winter, forming a large shallow lake, attractive to a variety of water birds that visit or breed if the water does not completely evaporate before summer. Ferruginous ducks were among the birds apparently benefiting from winter floods and the extra protection this year, and at least two pairs bred in pools surrounded by dense vegetation adjacent to the shallow lake. Other ducks breeding at Azraq this year included Mallard, and for the first time in Jordan, one pair each of Shoveler and Pintail. Further species certainly or probably breeding along the edges of the Qa’ during 2020 were Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Gull-billed Terns, Greater Sand Plover, Kentish Plover and Collared Pratincoles.

Owl chick rescue

A long-eared owl chick rescued by Al-Weibdah inhabitants and Jordan BirdWatch

Jordan BirdWatch is frequently contacted during the breeding season of birds, to collect and deal with chicks, often fully grown but still not able to fly properly. In one case, a Jackdaw chick was being kept on the roof of a house by people who took the chick from children playing near their home. The chick probably fell from its nest while attempting its first flight. JBW advised to immediately return the chick to the nesting site and place it on a higher place, safe from ground-dwelling predators.

In another case the chick of a Long-eared Owl was found grounded in a garden in Al-Weibdah in Amman, probably after attempting to leave the nest. The habitants contacted JBW and kept it in a safe place for a day or two. JBW personnel then placed the seemingly healthy bird on the branch of a tall tree. It was evident that the nest was located nearby and the parents were present and still feeding the chick after it left the nest. The young owl was spotted in the days following its rescue, perching on the branches of the trees in the same garden.

Unfortunately, most “grounded” Owls, Birds of Prey and other birds are mistakenly deemed orphaned – they’re actually just in the process of testing their wings. Many young birds disperse from their nests long before they can fly – this prevents overcrowding in the nest as the chicks grow. This is nature’s way of helping to minimise any threat to the entire clutch from predators. Many young birds lose their footing during these first explorations and fall to the ground”. A grounded chick may look lost and vulnerable, but the parents are likely to know where it is and will continue to feed it. Owl chicks can climb up bushes and trees to stay safe https://www.owlpages.com/owls/articles.php?a=81

The risks and advices

What JBW observed and the measures to take in a rescue situation

Healthy owl chicks that would still have a chance to survive in the wild are often taken to local conservation or animal welfare societies or facilities in Jordan with the good intension of “saving its life”. In some cases people take things into their own hand and attempt to feed and care for the bird themselves, then give up after the bird becomes a “nuisance”, or so weakened it would be difficult to save. It is usually impossible for non-specialists to determine the age and physical condition of a chick, and thus its chances to survive in the wild; in many cases the chicks are deemed “orphaned” or even injured because they still are not able to fly well. That is why we advise calling JBW to get appropriate advice and assistance and before taking the birds into what often turns out to be a life-long captivity. Evidently, some of the birds brought to these facilities are kept in captivity indefinitely and are sometimes used as additional attraction for visitors.

Some of the owl species are still threatened or rare in Jordan (see our Bird list), due to habitat destruction, disturbances at nesting sites, persecution and deliberate collection of owls from the wild and offering them for sale on social media platforms. Eleven species of owls have been recorded in Jordan including nine that breed in the country, one of which became extinct a few decades ago. Although considered by some Jordanians as “bad luck”, these magnificent birds provide humans with a lot of “services” when in the wild and thus deserve more appreciation and protection in Jordan.

All information concerning Birds in Jordan is available in our Bird list, species and their conditions are regularly observed and updated by JBW.

Birds of Faynan

Birds of Faynan

Birds of Faynan, Past and Present

A new book “Birds of Faynan – Past and Present” was published as part of the project “People and Birds of the Southern Levant“.

The authors have combined their expertise in ornithology, ecology, archaeology and cultural heritage to produce this guide of the birds of Faynan, SW Jordan, and some of the ways they have inspired artists, poets and story-tellers throughout the history of Jordan.

The book also presents the results of archaeological excavations at a 12,000–10,000 year old Neolithic settlement in Wadi Faynan, which have shown that there were once even more species of birds in Faynan than today. The climate was apparently more humid and much more trees were growing on the mountain slopes 10,000 years ago.

Mithen, S., Khoury, F., Greet, B., White, J. and Masalamani, N. 2019. The Birds of Faynan: Past & Present. Reading, UK: The University of Reading.

ISBN: 9780704915909

Copies can be obtained by contacting us.

Jordan BirdWatch General Assembly

Jordan BirdWatch Owl in Jordan

8th of february 2020

Jordan BirdWatch Association is holding its annual meeting on the 8th of february 2020.

The event will start with the General Assembly for all members from 15:00 to 16:00 hours and will be followed by presentations and discussions.

All those interested are welcome to attend and to participate !

JBW’s annual meeting will take place in the hall of the JORDANIAN TOUR GUIDE ASSOCIATION at the following adresse : Al-Fayha’a Street, Shmeisani

JBW General Assembly 8th of february 2020
JBW General Assembly 8th of february 2020

For further information, you can contact us on our contact page, or call the mobile number : 00 962 (0)7 9550 2900

Clean-up event and bird watching in Wadi Gharaba

Black-winged-Kite-Ghor-Rama-Jordan-Valley-7-December-2019-photo-by-Fares-Khoury

A special Conservation Area

Solid waste is one of the main and ever-growing environmental issues in the Jordan Valley, others being depletion of water sources, overgrazing of native vegetation, invasion of alien shrub species and unregulated hunting.

JBW is carrying out projects in one site to tackle the root causes for such local problems and present a model of best practices and for integrated management of ecosystems and natural resources in the Jordan Valley area.

White-throated-Kingfisher,-Ghor-Rama,-Jordan-Valley,-7th-December-2019
White-throated Kingfisher, Ghor Rama in the Jordan Valley on the 7th of December 2019
photo by Fares Khoury

Moreover, JBW organizes birding trips to spread awareness and to monitor birds and their habitats.

In this context, Jordan BirdWatch together with Ahl El-Balad initiative carried out a clean-up event in Wadi Gharaba Special Conservation Area, which is located in Ghor Rama north of the Dead Sea on Saturday 7th December 2019. Large amounts of waste were collected, including mainly plastic water bottles and cans.

cleaning-campaign-7-dec-2019
Cleaning campaign on the 7th of December 2019 organised by Ahl El-Balad initiative and Jordan BirdWatch

JBW members also enjoyed watching a variety of birds in and around Wadi Gharaba in the early morning including Herons and Egrets, two Black-winged Kites Kingfishers (three species), Little Green Be-eaters, Bluethroat, Robin, Stonechat, Indian Silverbills and Spanish Sparrows.

Kingfisher in Ghor-Rama, Jordan-Valley. December-2019, photo by Fares Khoury
Kingfisher in Ghor Rama, Jordan Valley, December 7th 2019, photo by Fares Khoury

Clean-Up event and bird watching

Wadi Gharaba, a special conservation and important bird area in Jordan

Jordan BirdWatch together with Jordan Green Building Council and Ahl El-Balad initiative…

… are carrying out a clean-up event in Wadi Gharaba Special Conservation Area, which is located in Ghor Rama north of the Dead Sea on Saturday 7th December 2019.

Everyone is welcome to participate. There will also be a birdwatching event in the early morning.

There will be two groups:

  1. Bird-watching group leaves earlier: meeting at 6:15 am; 7th circle; private vehicles; this group will meet the second on site at around 10 am.
  2. Second group meets at 8:30 am at the 4th circle (Green building council) where a bus will be available for volunteers.

Expected return to Amman 1:00 pm.

For more info please call Leen 0797343617.

Ahl el-Balad
Ahl el-Balad

For more information on the Wadi Gharaba site and Jordan BirdWatch go to our post Special Conservation Area.

Annual Environmental School Day 2019

Zero Waste in 2022

Jordan BirdWatch participated in the annual Environmental Day hosted on 2 April 2019 byThe Ahliyyah School for Girls and Bishop’s School for Boys.

This year’s theme was “Zero Waste in 2022”. The main objective was to involve students in taking actions towards achieving a better and greener world.

Jordan BirdWatch presented books and bird-watching tools, and had lively discussions with students about bird diversity in Jordan, and the negative impacts of solid waste pollution on birds and the eco-tourism sector in Jordan.

A Special Conservation Area

Wadi Gharaba bird habitat

Wadi Gharaba becomes a Special Conservation Area

Wadi Gharaba, Jordan Valley, was announced as a “Special Conservation Area” by the Ministry of Environment upon the request of JORDAN BIRDWATCH and after obtaining the approval of various stakeholders.

An SCA includes management of important habitats and ecosystems to conserve biodiversity while allowing limited or traditional use by local communities.

The nearly 5 Km² area is adjacent to the River Jordan and 7 km north of the Dead Sea. It is around 35 km (half an hour drive) from Amman. It includes a narrow, shallow wadi with marsh-like conditions and Tamarisk thickets, suitable breeding habitat for Little Bittern, Blue-cheeked and Little Green Bee-eater, White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, Clamorous Reed and Cetti’s Warblers and Dead Sea Sparrow.

The management plan was prepared by JBW during 2018, and includes activities for preparing the site for visitors and minimizing threats, namely overgrazing, encroachment by an invasive shrub, hunting of birds and waste management.

Soon after the management plan was prepared, however, new plans to invest within and around the SCA have been announced. Nonetheless, JBW along with supporters is determined to protect the natural bird habitats along the wadi which flows into River Jordan. GIZ and SGF/UNDP are supporting JBW in carrying out two projects at the site in 2019-2020 (see projects for more information).

For information on how to reach the site and for organized birding trips please contact JBW.

Important surveys in Jordan

Herds, wild grazing

2015-2019

National breeding surveys of rare, poorly known and geographically restricted species in Jordan are shedding light on current distribution and threats to bird habitats, such as windfarms in the southern highlands and unsustainable farming and overgrazing in Wadi Araba and the Jordan Valley.

Birding trips are also constantly adding information about various bird species.

JBW updates the national bird list and its members publish significant records, such as the colonization of Black-winged Kite in Sandgrouse (vol. 39, 2017).