It’s currently one of the best times of the year to spot birds in the Emirates, so we get ornithological at Sharjah’s new Wasit Wetland Centre.
Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita)
Listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species, the northern bald ibis is the rarest bird that can be seen at the Wasit Wetland Centre.
Historically found throughout central Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the species has experienced a long-term decline over several centuries thanks to habitat degradation, changes in farming practices, urbanisation and hunting, and even the current conflict in Syria.
A small breeding colony of the birds was discovered near Palmyra in 2002, but only a single bird from this eastern colony was spotted at the Syrian breeding site in 2013. Three adult birds, including a female named Zenobia, were observed at the bird’s overwintering grounds in Ethiopia two years ago.
Western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
The most common winter visitor from Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the western marsh harrier is easily recognisable thanks to its broad wings and low, soaring flights over the dense reed beds where it breeds and the lake shorelines where it searches out its prey.
Measuring more than 40 centimetres in height, the bird is capable of living for 15 years, and can weigh between 500 and 900 grams. Females lay clutches of five to eight eggs, which take 24 days to hatch.
Goliath heron (Ardea goliath)
Standing almost 150cm tall, weighing up to five kilograms and with a two-metre wingspan, this stately species is the world’s largest heron. Feeding on large fish, lizards, frogs, rodents, crabs and snakes, the bird hunts by standing motionless in water or on a floating platform. When it sees its prey, the bird catches it with its sharp beak, sometimes piercing it or swallowing it whole.
Goliath herons can live for more than 20 years, and lay clutches of one to three eggs, which take anywhere from 24 days to a month to hatch in the bird’s nest, which comprises a platform of sticks or reeds usually constructed in trees over water.
Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Instantly recognisable thanks to its white plumage and long, black, spatula-shaped bill, the Eurasian spoonbill is well-known in ornithological circles for its fussy eating habits. The bird will only feed in water of a certain depth, and changes its feeding times according to the tides, even feeding at night if necessary, using its sensitive bill to feel out underwater prey such as shellfish, small fish, worms and leeches. Eurasian spoonbills can live for almost 30 years, and stand up to about one metre tall.
Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
With its long legs, the greater flamingo stands between 1.2 and 1.45 metres tall, with males weighing almost twice as much as females. In the wild, these sociable birds, which congregate in huge flocks of up to a million birds, can live for 33 years; in captivity, they can live even longer. Breeding on coastal lakes, salt pans and inland, saltwater lakes, greater flamingoes feed on small crabs, algae and invertebrates by sucking in mud and water and filtering this through fringed plates in their hooked beaks.
Source: art & life