INTRODUCTION TO BIRDING ON ABU DHABI ISLAND
by Steve James
Abu Dhabi island is joined to the mainland by two bridges (shortly to be increased to three). These two bridges are Maqta & Musaffah bridges, they provide easy access to all the birding sites found on the island.
The island is an excellent location for the entire suite of Arabian Gulf seabirds. Summer is the best time and sometimes congregations of feeding seabirds can be spectacular. Until recently, Abu Dhabi was also a prime location for a wide variety of other water birds, such as Greater Flamingo; Spoonbill and large numbers and variety of wading birds. While all of these species may still be found, the numbers are decreasing, as fast paced development is destroying the available habitats at a remarkable rate.
For most birders it is the good variety of spring/autumn migrants and winter visitors that can be seen here that is the biggest draw. The island can be a good place to see Crested Honey Buzzards as well as Masked Shrike. It is the only place with breeding Eastern Olivaceous Warblers.
But it is the unpredictability of species, that really keeps Abu Dhabi birders keen & raring to go! Few places can have as long a list of rarities and scarce migrants as Abu Dhabi Island. On a select few days a year, migration can be spectacular and almost anything can, and does, turn up. Almost any patch of vegetation can hold birds and Abu Dhabi is one of the few places where birders regularly bird-watch traffic islands and busy highways! Sadly, since 2011, good habitat is being lost at a rapid pace. In 2014, few are left.
The small community of birders living here, have collectively, found some of the rarest & most prized species on the UAE list!
The major sites include:
- Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club
- Mushrif Palace Gardens (much reduced since late 2008)
- Emirates Palace Hotel (restricted access, but very good if you can get in)
- Lulu Island, difficult to access and good for Hypocolius, but see this article
The minor sites include:
- Abu Dhabi; Hilton/Spinneys Area
- Abu Dhabi Hotel Intercontinental
- Abu Dhabi; 19th Street
- Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
- Abu Dhabi; Bateen Airbase Park
- Abu Dhabi; Officer's Club
Visiting a selection of these sites will give one a chance to see most of the specials, and a good range of migrants found here.
I sincerely hope that this guide helps you to find & enjoy the birds on this little island. It is an excellent place to bird-watch.