In the language of enthusiastic bird-watchers, the Sultanate of Oman as a birding destination is ‘under-watched’. When they say under-watched, they mean that for the large number of bird species in the Sultanate, there are a relatively few number of birding enthusiasts going out to spot them. They also mean that not enough people have realised the magnificent potential for birding that Oman offers.
According to the Environment Society of Oman, over 480 species of birds have been recorded in the Sultanate. Considering that a large part of the country is covered in desert, and that there is relatively little vegetation throughout most of the country, this is an impressive number, say bird watching experts.
Of these hundreds of species found in Oman, many are strikingly beautiful and colourful. Many of them also exhibit the type of fascinating behaviour and habits and migration movements – which are of keen interest to birders. And very conveniently, many of them can be easily tracked down via the excellent road infrastructure that exists throughout the Sultanate. Oman is a bird-watching paradise. And it would be a shame for its birds to continue being under-watched!
Bird-watchers in the Sultanate are very privileged, in that their adventures to track down Oman’s birds in their natural habitats will lead them to some of the most interesting natural terrain and fauna and flora on the Arabian Peninsula. Here are some of the well-known birding spots…
Al Batinah Coastline
This section of shoreline stretches in a northwest direction away from Muscat, and includes the Mangrove stands that are just north of the coastal town of Sohar. The region is excellent for viewing waders, gulls, terns, and in summer, the Sooty Falcon. The Sohar Sun Farms is a vast farming complex near Sohar, which is also home to a vast range of birds – and often, and enthusiastic bunch of birdwatchers.
The steep sea cliffs and fjords of the Musandam enclave at the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula are the location of nesting sites of numerous species of seabirds – including huge, spectacular flocks of the Socotra Cormorant (they sometimes number in their thousands when flocking).
Ash Sharqiyyah Region
While much of the Ash Sharqiyyah region consists of sparse desert terrain, the coastlines are teaming with life – and birds. The famous Turtle watching beaches around Ras Al Hadd are the temporary home of many migratory birds, including the beautiful Redbilled Tropicbird, as well as various wader species.
Al Hajar Mountains
One of the most exciting events in the world of ornithology was the discovery of a reported news species of owl, now named the Omani Owl, which was discovered in the Al Hajar Mountains. But these mountains hold dozens of other bird species as well – in what is magnificent scenery.
Masirah Island and the nearby Bar Al Hikman Peninsula are home to huge numbers of bird species and especially, seabirds. Along with Masirah, there are also the enchanting Hallaniyat Islands off the coastline of Dhofar, and the Daymaniyat Islands and Fahal Island, near Muscat – all of which are extremely important to Oman’s birds (including breeding Sooty Falcons).
Muscat and Surroundings
The parks and gardens dotted around Muscat itself offer fantastic opportunities for bird-watching, and the chance to see species like the Yellow Wagtail, Purple Sunbird, Grey Francolin, Common Kingfisher, White-spectacled Bulbul, and Rose-ringed Parakeets. Al Qurum Natural Park is home to a surprising number of interesting birds too – including the colourful Indian Roller and Green Bee-eater. The coastline around Muscat also offers the chance to see a range of seabirds – like various herons, waders, gulls and terns. And the Al Ansab wetland area has a reported 291 species of bird, which makes it another popular watching spot. Interestingly, the Sunub waste disposal site outside Muscat is a premier site for observing large numbers of eagles and vultures.
Richly rewarding birding For birders, the Dhofar region in southern Oman deserves a special mention. Here there is Afro-tropical forest vegetation in the interior, stretches of beach and rocky shoreline, as well as estuary systems (known locally as khors) that open up into the sea during the rainy Khareef monsoon season. During the Khareef season, the constant drizzle causes the plants, grasses, trees, shrubbery and natural vegetation in the hills and valleys around Dhofar to come to life. On the coastline, Bridled Terns, Skuas, and Jouanin’s Petrel can all be viewed – as well as Red-necked Phalaropes in large numbers. The coastal khors are a haven for water birds, with Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Lesser Flamingos, African Spoonbills, and many others commonly being seen.
In the interior of Dhofar, the mountain forests are home to many afro-tropical species, such as the African Paradise Flycatcher, Shining Sunbird, and the Yellow-bellied Green Pigeon. Hume’s Tawny Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl, African Scops Owl and Verraux’s Eagle are also found here, among many other special birds. Dhofar offers exceptional territory for bird-watching, and any trip done here in search of birds, will be richly rewarded.
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