Unforgettable Holidays - Socotra Eco-Tours
Birds you must see
Most birders visiting Socotra will want to see the endemics as well as other birds that are special to the island or difficult to see elsewhere. The following 25 specialties can all be seen during a short visit, and details are given on where to find them.
A stop at the coastal lagoons just to the east of Hadibu, the estuaries along the road to the airport or the estuary at Qalansiya are a must for interesting waders and herons, such as the rare Indian Pond Heron.
PERSIAN SHEARWATER Puffinus persicus
A breeding visitor to Socotra, nesting in remote cliffs. Present offshore throughout the year, often in feeding flocks. Sometimes these are visible from the shore (such as from Hadibu) but usually it is necessary to hire a boat and go out to sea for a few kilometres. The best place to hire a boat is Qalansiya.
JOUANIN’S PETREL Bulweria fallax
A Globally threatened seabird only known to breed on Socotra where it was discovered nesting in 2000. Present offshore throughout the year but you will need to hire a boat and go out to sea for a few kilometres for a chance of seeing it well. The best place to hire a boat is Qalansiya.
RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD Phaethon aethereus
Breeds on cliffs and present offshore throughout the year. You can never guarantee you will see this fine seabird but your best chance is watching from the cliffs at Qalansiya or at Ras Hebak (just to the west of Hadibu), or going out in a boat from Qalansiya.
MASKED BOOBY Sula dactylatra
Breeds on the outer islands but can be observed offshore throughout the year, often in large flocks, especially from the cliffs at Qalansiya.
BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster
Breeds on the outer islands but is regularly seen from the shore around the coast especially where fisherman are going out in boats.
SOCOTRA CORMORANT Leucocarbo nigrigularis
Both a resident breeding bird and a winter visitor from the large colonies in the Arabian Gulf. It is Globally threatened. Often seen feeding offshore, sometimes very close in, but the largest numbers can be seen by taking a boat from Qalansiya to Shuab, passing along the edge of some very impressive cliffs.
EGYPTIAN VULTURE Neophron percnopterus
Globally threatened, butcommon and widespread on Socotra which probably has the highest concentration in the world. It is a familiar bird in all towns and villages and will frequently gather at picnics.
SOCOTRA BUZZARD Buteo socotraensis
An island endemic with a small but widespread population. Found mostly in the hills but also often on the plains and even the outskirts of Hadibu. Two places to observe it easily are Wadi Denegen (just a few kilometres south of Hadibu) and Wadi Ayhaft (to the west of Hadibu). The taxonomy of this bird of prey is under review.
CREAM-COLOURED COURSER Cursorius cursor
The best places to see this handsome wader are the Noget and the grassy plains to the east of Hadibu.
SOOTY GULL Larus hemprichii
Resident & winter visitor. It breeds on the outer islands but is a common along the coasts of Socotra throughout the year.
SAUNDERS’S TERN Sternula saundersi
A breeding summer visitor to parts of the Socotra coast. Also seen throughout the year but rare in winter. Coastal areas along the north shore offer the best chance of finding it, but especially at roost on the Hadibu beaches.
BROWN NODDY Anous stolidus
Breeding summer visitor to the outer islands but present offshore throughout year. Sometimes huge feeding flocks can be observed from the coast near Hadibu.
LICHTENSTEIN’S SANDGROUSE Pterocles lichtensteinii
This resident breeder is common and widespread, but often difficult to see during the day. It is best seen at dusk when groups come down to drink at freshwater pools and wadis with running water. Two place to visit to witness this are at Wadi Shek (to the east of Hadibu) and Wadi Denegen (to the south).
‘SOCOTRA’ SCOPS OWL Otus (socotranus)
A resident breeder whose taxonomy is under review. Widespread and fairly common but usually only heard from dusk and throughout the night. It is often possible to locate it while it is still light – just follow the calls (song) until you find it! A good locality to look is the palm woodlands at Wadi Shuq. At night you will need a good torch.
FORBES-WATSON’S SWIFT Apus berliozi
This little understood species breeds on Socotra in the spring and summer but appears to be present throughout the year except for December and January. Flocks can be seen in highland areas – at dawn and dusk is often a good time - but also when the storm clouds gather.
SOCOTRA CISTICOLA Cisticola haesitatus
Globally threatened island endemic which is found mostly in low-lying coastal vegetation, where it is easily discovered by its distinctive song flight. A good place to see it is in the very low acacia scrub west of Hadibu Port.
SOCOTRA WARBLER Cisticola incanus
A common and widespread resident endemic, which can be found almost anywhere with trees or low bushes. Can be elusive, but with patience you will easily see it!
SOMALI STARLING Onychognathus blythii
A common resident, Found throughout the island and even in small flocks in Hadibu. It has a longer, wedge-shaped tail compared to the Socotra Starling and the female has a grey head.
SOCOTRA STARLING Onychognathus frater
A fairly common endemic which is found mostly in the highland areas where there are fruiting trees. Often found near Dragon’s Blood Trees. Make sure you do not confuse it with the similar Somali Starling.
DESERT WHEATEAR Oenanthe deserti
Winter visitor and the commonest migrant on Socotra. Can be seen nearly everywhere from October to March.
SOCOTRA SUNBIRD Chalcomitra balfouri
A common and widespread resident endemic, which can be found anywhere with trees, though not in towns and villages.
SOCOTRA SPARROW Passer insularis
The commonest endemic – found everywhere throughout Socotra, even in towns and villages.
LONG-BILLED PIPIT Anthus similis
A common and widespread resident, easily seen wherever you are.
SOCOTRA GOLDEN-WINGED GROSBEAK Rhynchostruthus socotranus
Yemen’s national bird and fairly easily found in the higher areas with trees, especially those with fruit. A visit to Wadi Denegen, the highlands at Skand or Wadi Ayhaft should easily locate it.
SOCOTRA BUNTING Emberiza socotrana
Globally threatened and the most difficult of the endemics to see. It is found in isolated spots in the highland areas especially on the slopes at Skand and the cliffs at Mahlih. However it is best to contact one of the guides mentioned above to take you. First make sure they really do know where to find it!
Richard Porter, Birdlife International