BIRDS of ADEN [Archives:1997/39/Last Page]

September 29 1997

Nabeel Obad*
Early Discoveries More than any other southern Arabian areas, Aden has received a lot of attention from ornithologists – both amateur and professional. The reason is probably its unique location as an international port connecting Europe, Britain in particular, with its colonies in India and south east Asia. Moreover, Aden was, until very recently, a very important British military base. Many officers were enthusiastic bird watchers. Colonel Yerbury – posted in Aden during 1883-1886 – was one of the first to collect and publish information on birds in the well-known Ibis magazine. A few years later, Barnes who worked in Aden for six years wrote an informative article on birds in Aden in 1893. The British, however, were not alone in their interest in Adeni birds. Other nationals were also no less enthusiastic ornithologists. The German Carl Rathjens, who worked in Aden during 1929-1932, collected numerous bird specimens for the Zoology Museum in Hamburg. His compatriot, Col. Meinertzhagen also visited Aden several times between 1899 and 1923. His tome, Birds of Arab Countries , is one of the most important books on birds in Arabia. It is still used as a classic reference book by many students of ornithology.
In addition to being an area of interest for bird enthusiasts, Aden was also the gateway into the southern Yemeni hinterlands. In 1892, Neumann set out from Aden to Lahaj and the surrounding areas, collecting various bird specimens. Bury also from Aden to its northern territories which were then known as the Amiri District – today’s Dhali’. There, he collected various specie of birds and sent them to the British Natural History Museum. These scientific efforts culminated in 1899 in the arrival of an expedition from the British Royal Society. Comprising, among others, Percival the ornithologist and Dodson the taxidermist, the British expedition visited many areas to the north and east of Aden. A huge number of various species of birds were collected by Percival and Dodson, and sent to the British Natural History Museum which also shared them with the Tring Museum. The big efforts made by these people were not in vain. Their names will forever be associated with the many of the bird species they discovered and classified.
Types of Birds
There are about 200 species of birds recorded in the Aden area, which includes the two Aden peninsulas, Lesser Aden, and part of the isthmus that connects them. Not all of these birds are permanently in Aden, many of them are migrant birds. They come the region during the Autumn or Spring migratory periods. Some stay in Aden during Winter.

Indigenous Birds There are no more than 20 species of birds that inhabit and breed in Aden. Crows are now the most common, which was not the case a few decades ago. As col. Meinertzhagen indicated in a scientific article written in Ibis in 1923, few of these crows were present in Aden then which were introduced into the area in one way or the other. These birds have definitely been able to grow rapidly in numbers not only in Aden, but also in neighboring areas. This big increase in crows numbers has been accompanied by a decrease in the numbers of other birds such as falcons, sparrows and nightingales. Crows reached such endemic number to the extent that the Aden municipality had to wage a bug campaign to cull them. The relative decrease in crows led to the re-appear. If one is lucky enough, one could encounter the odd nightingale in the Kamsari or Shuhada parks in Tawahi of Sahareej park in Taweela. Wild pigeons are also indigenous to Aden. They often mix with domesticated pigeons. These pigeons are known to lay their eggs in the nooks and crannies of the rocky cliffs overlooking the Taweela cisterns or the Seera Castle. Kites, also indigenous to Aden, are sometimes seen flying and looking for food. They build their nests on high tree tops. Parrots, on the other hand, were originally brought from India to be bred in captivity. Few parrots, however, managed to escape and reproduce in the wild. They can be seen presently in Crater, Khormaksar, Sheikh Othman, Mansoora, and even in Hawta in Lahaj where some were able find a suitable habitat. Sparrows are the smallest of the Adeni birds. They lay their eggs in between wooden roof beams and inside other little holes and cavities. Other birds are found in Aden all year round such as the flamingo which is common in the Malahat area. Fla mingoes do not lay eggs in Aden, but probably in some neighboring areas.
Migrant Birds Shallow watery environs in Haswa and Malahat attract large numbers of water birds every year. Winter birds include such diverse varieties as seaguls, ducks, hawks, and herons. Summer, on the other hand, is the time for pelicans to arrive in Aden. They are dis- tinguished by their large size and yellow pouch-like beaks.
Threats of Extinction The greatest danger facing migrant birds in Yemen is the drying of the Malahat and Haswa areas. Yemen is not a signatory to the international treaty fr protecting migrant birds. About 100 species of birds in Aden live in watery environments, some of which are threatened with extiction on an international level. Knowing that 90% of the birds in Aden are marine, mostly migrant birds. Aden lies on a birds migration route extending from Europe and north Asia to middle and southern Africa. So drying the shallow watery areas in and around Aden will destory these birds’ natural habitat, leading eventually to their extinction. —————————————-*Nabeel Obad B.Sc. in agricultural sciences. Author of several books about wild life in Yemen