I was excited about the potential birding opportunities when I first moved to Qatar. After a few months, I had come to the conclusion that Qatar was a dead zone, with just a handful of birds to be seen. Having been here a bit longer, I know that this is far from the truth — you just need to know where and just as importantly, when to look.
In those first few months though it seemed I had no alternative to focus on those birds that I could see. The following birds are seen everywhere: Common Mynah, House Sparrow, Rock Dove (and Feral Pigeons), Laughing Dove, Collared Dove and White Eared Bulbul.
While some of these are new for a UK birder like me, many are very familiar. Interestingly, the house sparrow is much less common in the UK than it once was. Gradually, over the next few months I began to appreciate these birds more and more. The cheerful chirping of the sparrows is so redolent of my childhood, when sparrows seemed to be everywhere.
So this post is a minor celebration of the everyday and the familiar. There’s joy to be found in careful inquiry. Even very common birds exhibit facinating behaviours.
Cheerful, chirping, chattering. That’s what it sounds like. These birds are busy little companions who always seem to be hurrying about their business. Never alone, always in small groups, house sparrows, with their civic grey caps (unlike their Spanish cousins, who prefer chocolate), bustle around in flocks like shoppers working their way through a market.
I like taking our morning coffee on the balcony with the soundtrack of a dozen sparrows cheerfully chattering to one another.
There are undoubtedly Rock Doves in Qatar, however it the Feral Pigeons with their mongrel mix of colourations that you see most often. This chap’s colouration is close to a Rock Dove’s — the original and best. They are really fabulous birds to admire in bright sunshine — of which there’s plenty here in Qatar. Grey, iridescent purple and green, with that baleful red eye. It’s fun to watch the ridiculous male when he’s all fluffed up chasing the females when the breeding a season swings around.
White Eared Bulbul
When I first arrived in Qatar I kept thinking these were tits of some kind. In fact they’re more closely related to Waxwings. There’s another variety of Bulbul in Qatar — the Red Vented Bulbul which is less common. White Ears are seen everywhere usually in pairs and have a noisy and untuneful call.
Thought to originally be escapes, the Common Mynah is ubiquitous in Qatar. They’re proper street yobs, loud, bold and unruly. If the Bulbul’s call’s noisy and tuneless, it sounds positive beautiful compared to the Mynah’s. Gangs of Mynah’s patrol streets on the lookout for easy pickings.
When we step out onto our balcony, there’s alway one of two cheekily perched on the lights or on the edge of the balcony. They remind me of rowdy football supporters out on the lash.
These small, sweet looking birds are also extremely common. They are much smaller than the doves we see back in the UK and are very approachable often remaining within just a few centimetres of your feet when out walking. They have the distressing habit of staying on the road until the very last second when your car approaches. Remarkably, they always seem to escape.
They have lovely, soft call which definitely confirms they’re part of the dove cooing fraternity.