After taking a walk through the narrow alleys of the Bastakiya and other heritage sites of Dubai, go on a spectacular bird-watching tour. Book any of the half-day or full-day trips to explore the wide variety of birds that nest in the tranquil surroundings of nature. From deserts and mountains to wadis and gardens, you’ll be surprised to meet the different species of avian visitors in Dubai.
Enter the fascinating world of birds at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, which spans an area of 6.2 sq km and is one of the few urban-protected areas in the world. The sanctuary, which was established in 1985 and officially protected in 1998, is located at the end of Dubai Creek and preserves the natural ecosystem of the region. In fact, it has also been identified as a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.
Enjoy a number of nature trails that unveil a variety of habitats at every step. As you walk by, you’re surrounded by the lush green mangroves, which are locally known as Gurmand are represented by a single species – Avicennia marina. It provides a safe breeding ground for some birds and also prevents coastal erosion, retains toxicants, enhances land accretion, and enriches soil and the aquatic environment. Besides these mangroves, many other ecosystems exist in this sanctuary, like mudflats, lagoons, sabkhas(saturated salt flats), reed beds and shrublands.
Quietly tiptoe to the conveniently located Bird Hides for a closer view of the 88 species of birds residing here. Each Bird Hide offers a panoramic view of the sanctuary and is equipped with telescopes and binoculars. Get a fascinating glimpse into the lives of birds as they sing melodiously, nibble on tidbits, persistently build their nests, hatch eggs and fly in unison – truly an unforgettable experience! Take a look at some of the birds that nest in this idyllic sanctuary.
Greater Flamingo(Phoenicopterous rubber)
The most visible and attractive feature of this sanctuary is the flock of graceful flamingos feeding in water. A maximum of 2,300 flamingos have been recorded in this area. The Greater Flamingo is a large, very slender, pale pink or white bird with long legs and a long neck. The wing coverts are bright salmon pink but are often hidden beneath the feathers on the back when the bird is feeding. In flight however, they are clearly visible and contrast with the black flight feathers of the wings.
Broad-billed Sandpiper(Limicola falcinellus)
Spot the Broad-billed Sandpipers that are small waders with a long, straight bill and short legs. The breeding adult has patterned dark grey upper-parts and white under-parts with blackish markings on the breast.
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
The Black-winged Stilt is a large wader in the avocet and stilt family, Recurvirostridae. Adults are 33-36 cm long. They have long pink legs, a long thin black bill and are mainly white with a dark cap and a dark back. These birds pick up their food, which is mainly insects and crustaceans, from sand or water.
Crab Plover(Dromas ardeola)
This bird resembles a plover, but has very long grey legs and a strong, heavy black bill. Its bill is unique among waders, and specialised for eating crabs. It has partially webbed toes. The plumage is white except for black on its back and in the primary feathers of the wings. They are noisy birds, calling frequently on their breeding sites.
Hume’s Wheatear(Oenanthe alboniger)
Identify the Hume’s Wheatear with its contrasting black-and-white plumage. They often nest in rock crevices or disused burrows. • Indian Roller(Coracias benghalensis) Avivid and stocky bird, the Indian Roller has a warm brown back, lilac breast and face, and blue crown, wings, tail and belly.
Red-wattled Lapwing(Vanellus indicus)
You cannot miss these conspicuous birds. They are large waders with black crown, chest, foreneck stripe and tail tip. The upper face, the rest of the neck, flanks, belly and tail are white and the wings and back are light brown. The bill and facial wattles are red, and the long legs are yellow. Its striking appearance is supplemented by its noisy nature, with a loud and scolding did-he-do-it call.
Yellow Warbler(Dendroica petechia)
The Yellow Warbler is greenish above and yellow below, with red breast streaking. They nest in trees, building a cup nest and its song is very melodious and musical.
European Bee-eater(Merops apiaster)
Catch this richly-coloured and slender bird with its pleasant and distinctive trill. It has brown and yellow upper-parts, while the wings are green and the beak is black. It can reach a length of 27-29 cm, including its two elongated central tail feathers.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater(Merops persicus)
This eye-catching bird is very colourful and distinct. Though it’s predominantly green, its face has blue sides with a black eye stripe, and a yellow and brown throat, while the beak is black. It can reach a length of 24-26 cm, including its two elongated central tail feathers.
Little Green Bee-eater(Merops orientalis)
The Little Green Bee-eater reaches a length of 16-18 cm. It has green upper-parts and crown, blue face and bluish under-parts. The wings are green and the beak is black. • Purple Sunbird(Cinnyris asiaticus) To spot this little species might take some time as it is only 10 cm long. Mainly glossy purple, the Purple Sunbird has a medium-length, down-curved bill and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both suitably adapted to their nectar feeding.
Hoopoe Lark(Alaemon alaudipes)
This is a large, slim, long-legged lark. The adult is mainly sandy brown above and pale below, with some breast streaking. Listen to the Hoopoe Lark’s call, which is a rolling zreee, and the song given in flight is a series of sad piping notes.
So whether you wish to view a spectacle of migratory birds or walk in the tranquil settings of a beautiful sanctuary, you’re sure to find it all in the multifaceted city of Dubai
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