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Kuwait - BirdForum Opus

Photo by George Gregory
The drinking pool at Tulha in the Sabah Al-Ahmed Natural Reserve


The State of Kuwait, lying at the head of the Gulf, is in the extreme south-eastern corner of the Western Palearctic avifaunal region and in the north-eastern corner of the Arabian peninsula. It is also on a crossroads of two main migration routes: central Asia - Africa and western Asia - Indian sub-continent.

Many bird species and subspecies that are difficult to encounter elsewhere in the Western Palearctic are relatively easily seen in the state. For these reasons, and because it is now easy for tourists to visit, Kuwait has become a Western Palearctic birding hotspot.

Trips to the state in winter and spring have become essential for Western Palearctic listers.


Notable Species

In the urban and suburban areas White-eared Bulbul and Common Myna are widespread and common residents, while Red-vented Bulbul and Bank Myna are more localised. Indian Silverbill has bred. African Collared Dove is a potential colonist.

Basra Reed Warbler probably breeds in various reed-beds. Red-wattled Lapwing and Common Babbler breed at Abdali Farms. Yellow-throated Sparrow breeds at various sites. White-throated Kingfisher has bred many times. Egyptian Nightjar occurs in all months and probably breeds.

Larks that breed or have bred include Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Dunn's Lark and Thick-billed Lark. In the restricted border area with Iraq, Pharaoh Eagle Owl probably breeds annually. Pale Rock Finch has bred and is recorded several times annually.

On the islands Crab Plover, Lesser Crested Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Bridled Tern and White-cheeked Tern breed annually. Socotra Cormorant and Saunders's Tern occur offshore from spring to autumn.

Isabelline Shrike and Steppe Grey Shrike are quite commonly found at many sites. Other annually-occurring passage and wintering species include Shikra, Pacific Golden Plover, Caspian Plover, Tibetan Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, White-tailed Plover, Indian Roller, Grey Hypocolius, Red-tailed Wheatear, Kurdish Wheatear, Basra Reed Warbler and Sykes's Warbler. Great Knot is, no doubt, regular in winter on Bubiyan Island, but at sites difficult to access.


Four new Western Palearctic species, Asian Koel, Forest Wagtail, Ashy Drongo and Purple Sunbird, have been seen in Kuwait recently. Other major Western Palearctic rarities in the last few years have been Lesser Frigatebird, Indian Pond Heron, Amur Falcon, Oriental Pratincole, Little Curlew, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Eversmann's Redstart and Long-tailed Shrike. In addition rare or difficult to see Western Palearctic species have included African Darter, Lesser Flamingo, African Sacred Ibis (wild, not feral), Lappet-faced Vulture, Oriental Turtle Dove, Buff-bellied Pipit, Blyth's Pipit, Black-throated Accentor, Radde's Accentor, Dark-throated Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Hume's Wheatear, Black Scrub Robin and Red-headed Bunting.


Birds you can see here include:

Mute Swan (vagrant), Greater White-fronted Goose (vagrant), Greylag Goose (rare), Ruddy Shelduck (rare), Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Marbled Duck (vagrant), Common Pochard (rare), Ferruginous Duck (vagrant), Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser (vagrant), Common Quail, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Horned Grebe (vagrant), Black-necked Grebe, Tropical Shearwater (vagrant), Red-billed Tropicbird (vagrant), Great Cormorant, Socotra Cormorant, Pygmy Cormorant (vagrant), African Darter (vagrant), Great White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican (vagrant), Lesser Frigatebird (vagrant), Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Indian Pond Heron (vagrant), Western Cattle Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret (rare), Western Reef Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black Stork (vagrant), White Stork, Glossy Ibis, African Sacred Ibis (vagrant), Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo (vagrant), European Honey Buzzard, Oriental Honey Buzzard (rare), Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle (vagrant), Egyptian Vulture, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture (vagrant), Eurasian Black Vulture (rare), Short-toed Eagle, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier (rare), Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Goshawk (rare), Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Shikra, Levant Sparrowhawk (rare), Common Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle (rare), Greater Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle (vagrant), Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle (rare), Osprey, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon (vagrant), Amur Falcon (vagrant), Merlin, Eurasian Hobby, Sooty Falcon (rare), Lanner Falcon (rare), Saker Falcon (rare), Peregrine Falcon, Barbary Falcon (vagrant), Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Little Crake, Baillon's Crake, Corn Crake, Common Moorhen, Grey-headed Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Common Crane (vagrant), Demoiselle Crane (vagrant), Macqueen's Bustard, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Crab Plover, Stone-Curlew, Cream-colored Courser, Collared Pratincole, Oriental Pratincole (vagrant), Black-winged Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Tibetan Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Caspian Plover, Eurasian Dotterel (rare), Pacific Golden Plover, European Golden Plover (vagrant), Grey Plover, Spur-winged Lapwing (vagrant), Red-wattled Lapwing, Sociable Lapwing (vagrant), White-tailed Lapwing, Northern Lapwing, Great Knot, Red Knot (vagrant), Sanderling, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Great Snipe (rare), Eurasian Woodcock (rare), Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Curlew (vagrant), Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalarope (vagrant), Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua (vagrant), Pallas's Gull, Mediterranean Gull (vagrant), Little Gull (vagrant), Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Gull, Armenian Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake (vagrant), Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern (vagrant), White-cheeked Tern, Bridled Tern, Little Tern, Saunders's Tern, Black Tern (vagrant), Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Spotted Sandgrouse, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (vagrant), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (rare), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Dove (ferals only), Stock Dove (vagrant), Common Woodpigeon, African Collared Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Turtle Dove, Oriental Turtle Dove (rare), Laughing Dove, Namaqua Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Great Spotted Cuckoo (rare), Common Cuckoo, Asian Koel (vagrant), Barn Owl, Pallid Scops Owl (vagrant), Common Scops Owl, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Long-eared Owl (vagrant), Short-eared Owl (rare), European Nightjar, Egyptian Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Little Swift (rare), White-throated Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Indian Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Dunn's Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Lark, Greater Hoopoe-Lark, Thick-billed Lark (rare), Calandra Lark (vagrant), Bimaculated Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Wood Lark (rare), Eurasian Skylark, Oriental Skylark, Temminck's Lark, Sand Martin, Rock Martin (vagrant), Eurasian Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Northern House Martin, Richard's Pipit (rare), Blyth's Pipit (vagrant), Tawny Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit (rare), Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Buff-bellied Pipit (vagrant), Forest Wagtail (vagrant), Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, White-eared Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Grey Hypocolius, Eurasian Wren (vagrant), Dunnock (vagrant), Black-throated Accentor (vagrant), Radde's Accentor (vagrant), Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Black Scrub Robin (vagrant), European Robin, Thrush Nightingale, Common Nightingale, Bluethroat, White-throated Robin, Eversmann's Redstart (vagrant), Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Siberian Stonechat, Isabelline Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Finsch's Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Kurdish Wheatear, Red-tailed Wheatear, Hooded Wheatear (vagrant), Hume's Wheatear (vagrant), White-crowned Black Wheatear (rare), Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel (vagrant), Eurasian Blackbird, Dusky Thrush (vagrant), Dark-throated Thrush (rare), Fieldfare (rare), Song Thrush, Redwing (rare), Mistle Thrush (rare), Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola (vagrant), Delicate Prinia, Common Grasshopper Warbler, Eurasian River Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler (vagrant), Basra Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Booted Warbler (vagrant), Sykes's Warbler, Upcher's Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler (vagrant), Icterine Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Barred Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Asian Desert Warbler, Menetries's Warbler, Greenish Warbler (rare), Yellow-browed Warbler (rare), Hume's Leaf Warbler (vagrant), Dusky Warbler (vagrant), Eastern Bonelli's Warbler (vagrant), Wood Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff (rare), Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Common Babbler, Great Tit (vagrant), Sombre Tit (vagrant), Eurasian Penduline Tit, Purple Sunbird (vagrant), Eurasian Golden Oriole, Isabelline Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike (vagrant), Lesser Grey Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Masked Shrike, Ashy Drongo (vagrant), House Crow, Rook (vagrant), Brown-necked Raven, Common Starling, Rosy Starling, Common Myna, Bank Myna, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Dead Sea Sparrow (vagrant), Pale Rock Finch, Yellow-throated Sparrow, Indian Silverbill, Chaffinch (rare), Brambling (rare), European Goldfinch (rare), Eurasian Siskin (rare), Eurasian Linnet (rare), Desert Finch (vagrant), Trumpeter Finch, Common Rosefinch, Yellowhammer (vagrant), Rock Bunting (vagrant), Cinereous Bunting, Grey-necked Bunting (vagrant), Ortolan Bunting, Rustic Bunting (vagrant), Little Bunting (rare), Reed Bunting (rare), Red-headed Bunting (rare), Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting

Other Wildlife

Mammals: Long-eared Hedgehog, Naked-bellied Tomb Bat, Arabian Red Fox, Ratel (Honey Badger), Lesser Jerboa, Cheesman's Gerbil, Libyan Jird, Sundevall's Jird.

Reptiles: various geckos, agamids, lacertids, Sea Snake, Sand Boa, Desert Horned Viper, Rat Snake, Arabian Rear-fanged Snake, Arabian Worm Lizard, Sand Skink.

Amphibians: Green Toad.

Fish: numerous marine species, including occasional Whale Shark.

Invertebrates: various scorpions, spiders (including Camel Spiders, Wolf Spiders and Black Widow), Domino Beetle, Flower Mantis, dragonflies, butterflies, moths; the coral reefs are apparently the most northerly in the world.

Flowering Plants: numerous species, including annuals, perennials and ephemerals, many of which are xerophytic or halophytic; several species of broomrapes parasitise various shrubs; mangroves are being re-introduced.

Fungi: desert truffles are a much sought after local delicacy.

For more details it is best to refer to AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan's website: [1]

Site Information

Photo by From CIA
Map of Kuwait

History and Use

Local inhabitants have been familiar with many bird species for many centuries, and there are many unique Kuwaiti names for birds. The avifauna of Kuwait has been studied in more detail for over one hundred and twenty years.

Pioneer expatriate ornithologists were Colonel E.A.Butler, W.D.Cumming, V.S.LaPersonne, Major-General Sir Percy Cox, Major R.E.Cheesman, C.B.Ticehurst and P.A.Buxton. Later workers included Colonel H.R.P.Dickson, Violet Dickson and Colonel R.Meinertzhagen. The modern era of ornithology really started with ornithologists Victor Sales, P.A.D.Hollom and R.D.Etchecopar, and the Ahmadi Natural History and Field Studies Group. Later, a series of scientifically trained and widely experienced expatriate birders were resident in, or visited, Kuwait, and seriously developed the Kuwait bird list.

Many Kuwaiti birders have become extremely active in recent years, producing numerous important records. These have included Mahmoud Shehab Al-Ahmed, Khalid Al-Nasrallah, Abdalla Al-Fadhel, Essa Ramadan, Fahad Al-Mansori, Mish’al Al-Jraiwi, Hussain Al-Qallaf, AbdulMuhsen Al-Suraye’a, Musaad Al-Saleh, Khalid Al-Ghanem, AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan, Sara Al-Dosary, Matra Al-Mutairy, Jamal Dashti and Rashed Al-Hajji. More and more Kuwaitis are developing interests in wildlife, often through their hobby of photography.

The environmental damage caused by the Gulf wars seems to have been overcome more or less completely. However, there are problems of over-grazing, shooting and disturbance in the state. To some extent these have been overcome by creation of nature reserves, fencing of oilfields and public education. Shaikha Amthal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has led efforts to conserve wildlife through the Voluntary Work Centre. Other environmental bodies in Kuwait include the Kuwait Environment Protection Society, the Environment Public Authority and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research.

Areas of Interest

(1) Abdali Farms

A group of farms on the border with Iraq, east of the Basra Road. Some birds can be seen from the roads, including Red-wattled Lapwing, but entry to individual farms requires permission.

At the Mohammed Al-Ajmi Farm Shikra is annual, Namaqua Dove has bred, and Dark-throated Thrush and Common Babbler have been seen.

The Yacoub Boodai Farm and the annexe to it have both Common Babbler and Red-wattled Lapwing, while Shikra, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Oriental Skylark, and Grey Hypocolius have been recorded.

At the Ouda Al-Hathali Farm Asian Koel has been observed.

(2) Al-Abraq Al-Khabari

An isolated farm in the western desert. Entry requires permission.

Migrants are plentiful in season. Shikra and Sykes's Warbler are annual. Grey Hypocolius and African Collared Dove have been recorded several times.

A long list of rarities has included Indian Pond Heron, Forest Wagtail, Radde's Accentor, Eversmann's Redstart and Dusky Thrush.

In the surrounding desert Dunn's Lark is often seen, and Oriental Honey Buzzard has been found.

(3) Green Island

An artificial island (actually a peninsula) off eastern Kuwait City. Pedestrian access is by ticket.

Red-vented Bulbul is a resident breeder. Grey Hypocolius is often recorded.

(4) Jahra East Outfall

A sewage and storm-water outfall near Judailiyat, with reedbeds and marshy areas. Access is open via dirt roads off the Jahra Expressway.

Migrant and wintering birds, of many species, are plentiful. Basra Reed Warbler and other reed-bed warblers probably breed annually. White-tailed Lapwing and Caspian Plover are fairly regular. Oriental Pratincole, Red-wattled Lapwing, Citrine Wagtail, Blyth's Pipit and Buff-bellied Pipit have been recorded.

(5) Jahra Farms

A group of traditional farms in the centre of Jahra town. Access to some is open but to others requires permission.

Bank Myna breeds annually. Other breeding species have included White-throated Kingfisher and Red-vented Bulbul.

Migrant and wintering species are usually fairly plentiful. Shikra, Namaqua Dove, Egyptian Nightjar, Olive-backed Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Grey Hypocolius, Dark-throated Thrush and Sykes's Warbler have been recorded at least several times each, and Hume's Leaf Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Ashy Drongo once each.

(6) Jahra Pool Reserve

A fenced nature reserve, consisting of a storm-water outfall with reed-beds and a pool surrounded by sabkha (seasonally-flooded saltmarsh), between Jahra town and Jahra Bay. Access requires a permit from the Environment Public Authority.

Basra Reed Warbler and other reed-bed warblers probably breed annually. Red-wattled Lapwing has been seen several times. A long list of rare species has included African Darter, Macqueen's Bustard, Pacific Golden Plover, Citrine Wagtail, Black-throated Accentor, Common Babbler, Long-tailed Shrike and Dead Sea Sparrow.

(7) Sabah Al-Ahmed Natural Reserve

A large nature reserve, named after the present Emir of Kuwait, to the north of Jahra town, on both sides of the Subiya Road. Access is by permit only.

Dunn's Lark breeds annually, and Egyptian Nightjar can be seen in all months near coastal scrub. Pharaoh Eagle Owl has bred.

Regular or fairly regular migrant and wintering species include Shikra, Caspian Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Namaqua Dove,Oriental Skylark, Grey Hypocolius and Yellow-throated Sparrow. Lappet-faced Vulture, Hume's Wheatear, Black Scrub Robin and Red-headed Bunting have been seen.

(8) Sabah Al-Salem

An area of sabkha, a reed-fringed saline pool, sewage-water pools, reed-beds and bushes to the west of Messila, south of Kuwait City. Open access is from the Fahaheel Expressway.

Waders and land migrants are plentiful in season. Greater Sand Plover, Tibetan Sand Plover, Namaqua Dove, Basra Reed Warbler and Indian Silverbill are regular. African Collared Dove, Egyptian Nightjar, Oriental Skylark, Citrine Wagtail and Sykes's Warbler have been seen several times each. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Eversmann's Redstart have been recorded.

(9) Sulaibikhat Bay (part of Kuwait Bay)

A shallow bay with mudflats extending from Shuwaikh Port to Doha Peninsula. Open access is via dirt road and from carparks off Abu Dhabi Street.

Crab Plover is commonly seen from autumn to spring, while Pacific Golden Plover and Caspian Plover are annual. White-throated Kingfisher has bred. Red-wattled Lapwing has been seen.

Rarities have included African Sacred Ibis and Lesser Flamingo.

(10) Sulaibikhat Nature Reserve

A small nature reserve along part of Sulaibikhat Bay, just north of the Ministry of Health. Access, from the tarmac road to the west of the ministry, requires a permit from the Voluntary Work Centre.

Grey Hypocolius is quite regular. Shikra, Sykes's Warbler and Long-tailed Shrike have been recorded.

(11) Sulaibiya Pivot Fields

A privately-owned area in Sulaibiya Farms. Access, from a tarmac road off the Sixth Ring Road, requires permission.

Migrant and wintering species are plentiful. Raptors are well represented. Oriental Pratincole, Caspian Plover, Little Curlew and Buff-bellied Pipit have been seen recently.

(12) Zour Port

A fenced oil terminal with residences at Zour, on the Gulf south of Fahaheel. Access is by permit from Chevron-Texaco.

Offshore, Socotra Cormorant, Greater Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, White-cheeked Tern and Bridled Tern are present from spring to autumn. A Lesser Frigatebird was seen recently. Yellow-throated Sparrow breeds annually.

Migrants are plentiful in season. Grey Hypocolius, Egyptian Nightjar and Indian Silverbill have been seen many times each. Common Babbler was resident until recently. Shikra and Red-headed Bunting have been recorded.

For more details of these and of other sites it is best to refer to 'The Birds of the State Of Kuwait' by George Gregory, Privately published, Skegness.

Access and Facilities

Numerous airlines fly to Kuwait International Airport. For citizens of virtually all western, and some other, countries, three-month visitor visas are available on arrival at the airport for a few dinars. Many car hire firms operate at the airport, but pre-booking is best. Four-wheel drive vehicles are best for birding, but high-clearance two-wheel drive vehicles can be used with care. Maps can usually be bought at the airport.

The Kuwait dinar (KD) is fully convertible, and is divided into 1000 fils. At present 1 KD is worth approximately 2 pounds sterling (see exchange rates). Petrol is very inexpensive. Food is reasonably priced. Restaurants vary from fast-food to traditional. Corner food shops are widespread. Many shops and facilities are ultra-modern.

Most groups of visiting birders have stayed in multi-bed appartments at Hussa House Hotel in Bneid Al-Gar or at Arinza Tower Quality Suites in Salmiya. Both are very reasonably priced and can be booked via the internet. Many other, usually much more expensive, hotels are available.

A few birding sites in Kuwait are of public access, but most require permission from the owners to be entered. It is necessary that contact is made beforehand with the resident birders in Kuwait to make the arrangements. Since this involves considerable time and effort, it is fair that a nominal charge be payable to them.

When travelling around Kuwait between birding sites it is strongly advised to carry a map, sufficient petrol, plenty of water/drinks, a spare tyre and jack, and a mobile phone with local contact numbers. Also, it is necessary to avoid using optical equipment near military areas and oil facilities.

Contact Details

Mike Pope, South African expatriate in Kuwait, Chairman of KORC (from June 2008): [email protected]

AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan, Kuwait citizen, Secretary of KORC: [email protected]

Pekka Fagel, Finnish expatriate in Kuwait, Member of KORC: [email protected]

George Gregory, UK resident, Member of KORC: [email protected]

For those birders intending to visit Kuwait, please contact at least one of the above.

External Links

AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan's website, covering all nature in Kuwait, with links to annual bird reports and to bird trip reports (in Arabic and English): [2]

Mike Pope's Kuwait bird photo-blog, with links to annual bird reports and to bird trip reports (in English): [3]

Mohammed Khorshed's Kuwait bird photoblog: [4]

Al-Showaiji's Kuwait bird photoblog: [5]

Kuwait Bird-watching photoblog: [6]

Rashed Al-Hajji's Kuwait bird photoblog: [7]

AbdulMuhsen Al-Suraye'a's Kuwait bird site (in Arabic): [8]

The Ornithological Society of Kuwait's websites, with links to annual bird reports: [9] and [10]

An internal link, to 'WP Rarities in Kuwait' (in English): [11]