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Two birds of prey, Najran, SW Saudi Arabia

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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 04:01   #1
BirdingRob
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Two birds of prey, Najran, SW Saudi Arabia

I have just returned from a weekend birding in Najran on the Yemen border. Over 50 species and at least 2 lifers.

There were only two birds I couldn't identify and as usual for me they are birds of prey.

One picture (bird1) is good and the other is poor (bird2).

Both were seen in or very close to King Fahd park and forest.

I want to blog my whole trip to the area but am being stopped by my poor bird of prey ID skills!

http://www.birdingforalrk.blogspot.com As a taster of what I saw I have posted a picture of an Arabian serin on the blog.

Can anyone tell me what the birds of prey are! Cheers
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 04:31   #2
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Picture 1 with the slotted nostril and lack of any obvious eyebrow ridge is a 1st Winter Honey Buzzard, I think. Any other photos of it?

#2, umm no idea yet.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 05:25   #3
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Andrew, Thanks for your comment. My thought is honey buzzard too but I didn't want to lead people. I have got many other pictures but most are from roughly the same angle as I walked closer. I attach one from a slightly different position.

Don't have a second picture of bird2 by the way.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 06:49   #4
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1 is definitely a 2yc honey buzzard, probably european.
2 looks like a short-toed eagle.

both aren't shown on the winter range maps for southern arabian peninsula but i think a few should stay there while the majority winters south of sahara in africa.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 08:13   #5
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Yes, nice Honey Buzzard, prob 2cy on iris and culmen colour (I was about to reply, quite proud of recognising it instantly, and Andrew, as always, had beaten me to it!).
I think Lou is also right with Short-toed Eagle. The combination of tail band spacing and slightly pink-rufous plain underparts suggest juvenile.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 08:26   #6
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Thanks to everyone so far. More views on the IDs are welcome especially bird2!

Lou's comment on winter ranges strikes a cord with me. I am finding many birds winter in Saudi Arabia which are not on the distribution maps as being here. Everything from masked shrike and the occasional garganey in the Riyadh area (central Saudi Arabia) to birds of prey in the SW.

I wonder just how much birding there has been in KSA in winter?

Rob http://www.birdingforalark.blogspot.com

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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:32   #7
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No doubt you wanted more views on bird 2 from others, not more from the same! Just looking at the thumbnail, it is very difficult to sense the scale, and seeing a raptor with a slightly rufous breast sitting deep in a tree, one's first though is Sparrowhawk or perhaps Shikra. But looking closer it's neither and has strong well-feathered tarsi, also a rather large head, and distinctive tail barring. I really can't think what it could be other then STE. Have a look at paper by Campora and Cattaneo on age & sex in STE, in British Birds 98:370-376. July 2005. Believe you can download from the BB website. Look at Fig 211 in particular. Could be your bird!
These are geographically interesting records, as Lou noted. For sure the SW corner of Arabia, and the Asir highlands, have long been recognised as distinctive zoogeographically compared with the rest of the peninsula, with especially strong African affinities if my memory serves right. I'd be surprised if there isn't a decent literature to investigate.
Two great birds in one post!
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:32   #8
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Hi
obviously HB, but way out of wintering range as Lou said, but within wintering range of Oriental HB, flight pictures would be welcome, I don't think you can id OHB on that picture
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:38   #9
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Maybe I'm looking too hard but I can't see the typical bare legs of a STE on that 2nd bird. Head shape also looks weird to me. I wonder if it's another honey buzzard.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:57   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motmot View Post
Maybe I'm looking too hard but I can't see the typical bare legs of a STE on that 2nd bird. Head shape also looks weird to me. I wonder if it's another honey buzzard.
Hmmm! Good thought. Must admit I didn't see HB for 2nd bird, but now you've planted the seeds of doubt...
Head shape doesn't look quite right, but it is at a curious angle. Not sure about bare legs because twigs in the way. And now the tail bars could be made to fit HB. Looking at the angle of bird's left wing I can't see trace of any carpal patch. Might it even be Oriental HB? As so often, now I don't know what it is!
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:58   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motmot View Post
Maybe I'm looking too hard but I can't see the typical bare legs of a STE on that 2nd bird. Head shape also looks weird to me. I wonder if it's another honey buzzard.
I was thinking the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tconzemi View Post
Hi
obviously HB, but way out of wintering range as Lou said, but within wintering range of Oriental HB, flight pictures would be welcome, I don't think you can id OHB on that picture
There's something not quite right about the head (for EuHB) to my mind, maybe the slight 'eyebrow' or the bill shape/size that I'm not 100% happy about, I was hoping other photo's might clarify things.

Anyone have some links to closeups of OHB heads? I'm quite busy right now :(
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 09:59   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motmot View Post
Maybe I'm looking too hard but I can't see the typical bare legs of a STE on that 2nd bird. Head shape also looks weird to me. I wonder if it's another honey buzzard.
Well possible
Unusual place to sit for STE and rather rusty white
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 10:32   #13
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I still don't know what it is, but now inclined to think OHB strongest candidate. Having downloaded and enlarged the image, the head shape looks better for 'HB' than at first sight. Quite elongate in fact, not so rounded as first looked. Who knows how it looked so STE-like?! Not sure if the apparent supraorbital ridge is just feather colour rather than structural. And the dark mark on the neck , lower and to our right, may be trace of dark throat marking of many OHB, just distorted by bird turning head strongly to its right? Rethinking the tail bars, the terminal one should be stronger in STE, the spacing and hints of subsidiary bars now looks better for 'HB', and could well be OHB. And, perhaps clutching at straws, I can't see beginning of dark carpal patch inside the birds left wing; this could fit STE or OHB.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 11:02   #14
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As I said before I don't have any more pictures of bird2 but I have plenty of bird1. Here is a picture of bird1 from further away but from another angle. I don't have any pix in flight.

As for bird2 it was big so sparrowhawk etc can be completely ruled out.

Hope the new picture helps

Rob http://www.birdingforalark.blogspot.com
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 12:46   #15
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I'm having difficulties even defining where the head is on bird #2, might be my deficient colour vision :(
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 15:15   #16
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it's a headless STE tibia is feathered, i don't see the tarsi. central tail band and jizz suggest this sp. over buzzard imo.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 15:33   #17
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Quote:
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I'm having difficulties even defining where the head is on bird #2, might be my deficient colour vision :(
The bird is looking to its right. Head shape looks wrong for STE to me Lou.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 16:01   #18
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Quote:
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The bird is looking to its right. Head shape looks wrong for STE to me Lou.
That is funny because I see it as having pulled a smallish head forward and looking slightly to its left. The big dark area that could have been an eye looks to be too sharp as if it is in front of the bird itself, sitting on the branch that is more or less in focus.

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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 16:43   #19
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Quote:
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The bird is looking to its right. Head shape looks wrong for STE to me Lou.
I see it Motmot's way. For sure. But only once I'd downloaded the image and enlarged it. The quality is decent enough to bear some enlargement. And with a cool & close look I'm not convinced it's STE. I'm more & more seeing some kind of Honey-buzzard, perhaps Oriental. That's "perhaps". Being wrong once a day is enough...
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Old Saturday 4th February 2012, 18:57   #20
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Thanks Motmot, I'll try looking at it your way when I get some time, Niels, your description best fits the way I first thought the head was too.
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Old Sunday 5th February 2012, 01:18   #21
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On an enlargement of #2, if I look at the bird as if the head is facing to its right, I think I see what might be a pale iris, yellow/orange, perhaps; also I think I see a hint of pale colour, yellowish maybe, where the cere would be.

Allowing for the removal of the obvious twigs in the foreground, it looks like there's more than a hint left of what would the minor barring on an HB's tail.

Was this bird really sitting as deeply into the thicket as the photo looks? Not just near the edge?
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Old Sunday 5th February 2012, 06:59   #22
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Andrew, the bird was sitting in the densest part of the forest (presumably for privacy) but there was a small clearing directly in front of it. I have only got a landscape picture of less dense areas of woodland near-by
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