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.