Abu Dhabi: A rare bird has been sited in the UAE. The Grey Hypocolius — with its own family, genus and species was spotted in the western region of Abu Dhabi in Sila town last month. These birds — of the size of a bulbul — usually residing in India, Pakistan was spotted by some residents of the Sila township and by Dr. Reza Khan, Principal, Wildlife Specialist, Dubai Safari who drove all the way to the city to capture pictures of this rare bird.
Khan who set off with a fellow bird watcher last Tuesday said no sooner he heard some residents had spotted the bird, he set off to chase the birds in Sila close to Saudi Arabia border.
About the Grey Hypocolius
The Grey Hypocolius is of a size of the bulbul. It has a long tail and small bills. It is of colour — as the name suggests — grey. Males have black-tipped bills, black mask and back of the head, tips of tails and a patch on wings. Legs are reddish and eyes dark. There is a suggestion of small crest.
“Interestingly, Hypocolius is so different from other birds that has its own family under the animal classification series of Phylum Chordata,” explained Khan. “It has its own genus. There is no second genus under this. This is quite unique for those who are keen on understanding history of any bird or animal species. These birds feed on berries, fruits and insects,” he added.
The Grey Hypocolius usually lives in the western desert of India and Pakistan. These birds also live in the Middle Eastern Arabian Peninsula, the Red Sea coast and in some Central Asian countries. “But in the UAE there are not too many occurrences of the birds so it was a rather rare sighting,” said Dr. Reza Khan, Principal Wildlife Specialist, Dubai Safari who spotted these birds last week.
Khan, who ventured deep into the desert of Abu Dhabi to capture some close shots of the bird, which he shared exclusively with Gulf News — said: “In the UAE, you will usually see not more than 100 of these birds and that too seasonally. It breeds in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan area and migrates to other countries. In the UAE, it passes twice through Abu Dhabi — once in early winter and then in March during Spring.”
He recalled spotting birds of this species back in the 1980s. The birds usually flocked the Ghantoot area, Lulu Island and in the Sila township. “I personally have seen some Grey Hypocolius in Mazyad in Al Ain in the 1990s,” he said.
Chasing the birds
“It was a very windy and dusty day and the Hypocolius was struggling to fly and remain in one location. So they often changed their perching points. House Sparrows were chasing them too, so it was a lot of action.”
Last Tuesday Khan travelled 959 kilometres from Dubai to Sila and back to record pictures of this rare bird. “I set off at 3.30am and returned home at 8.30pm. What can I say? I love my job,” he said.