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.
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.
We are having our annual general assembly meeting on the 6th of February 2021, from 3 to 5 pm.
The program would be as usual, first 30 minutes is the annual and financial report, followed by presentations and discussions about birds and birdwatching in Jordan (including a presentation about the rare and threatened Red-rumped Wheatear by Dr Fares Khoury and discussions about invasive bird species). The meeting will take place at the Jordan BirdWatch office:
Due to sanitary restrictions we cannot receive more than 12 JBW members in JBW’s meeting-room, we appologize and hope for your understanding. JBW members from abroad or who live outside Amman, or can’t participate for any reason, can attend online.
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.
Jordan BirdWatch, in cooperation with the Jordan Valley Development Society and supported by sGEF/UNDP, carried out a training workshop in the Jordan Valley about nature/bird guiding.
Most participants belonged to the local communities at and around south Shuna.
The special conservation area of “Wadi Gharaba” was visited as part of this training. The wetland habitat in the wadi, managed by Jordan BirdWatch along with local stakeholders, is to be used for educational purposes and bird-watching.
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.
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.
Moreover, JBW organizes birding trips to spread awareness and to monitor birds and their habitats.
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.
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.
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.