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Birding in Egypt

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Egypt is a birder's paradise! While world renown for its antiquities, the country's natural heritage is as rich as her cultural heritage. 

Egypt located at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, is blessed with a wide range of habitats each with its own unique bird life. The country is located on major migration routes. Millions of birds pass through every autumn and spring. Many species overwinter, Egyptian wetlands are internationally important wintering sites for waterbirds

No trip to Egypt is imaginable without seeing its world famous antiquities. Fortunately, birding can be combined with sightseeing as most of Egypt's cultural heritage sites are excellent locations for seeing birds.  In Egypt you can bird in the past. The Ancient Egyptians were superb natural historians and vividly documented the flora and fauna of their time on the walls of tombs and temples. Over 76 different species of birds, can be identified from the wall paintings, reliefs and other artifacts

For ecotourists there is the world famous coral reefs, spectacular desert wilderness and diverse wildlife from tiny geckos to sleek gazelles. Also, the country's proximity to Europe, warm climate, extensive tourism infrastructure, affordable prices and freindly people make it an ideal holiday destination!

Cairo with its 17 million inhabitants is a sprawling city on the banks of the Nile. Given its world famous cultural heritage sites, central location and extensive tourism infrastructure Cairo makes a good base from which to make day trips to outlying areas. 

Birds such as Pallid Swift, Yellow-billed Kite and Egyptian Swallow can be seen soaring above the city, while Hoopoe and Common Bulbul can be found in the gardens below. There are several birding sites in town. At Dr. Ragib’s Papyrus Village you can take a boat ride around this Nile island to see waterbirds. such as Purple Gallinule, Lesser Pied Kingfisher and Clamorous Reed Warbler.

The Pyramids and Sphinx are a must see for visitors to Egypt and a good place to encounter desert birds like Desert Eagle Owl, as well as Red-tailed Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush in winter. The farmlands around Sakara and to the south are good sites to see resident specialities such as Senegal Thick-knee, Little Green Bee-eater, Southern Grey Shrike and Egyptian Yellow Wagtail. 

Lake Qarun Protected Area is one of Egypt’s best birding sites. A variety of waterbirds occur at the lake year round. Slender-billed Gull breeds at Qarun and Great Black-headed Gull winters. The fish farms and other wetlands around the lakeshore attract waders and are home to the elusive, Painted Snipe. The cultivated lands around the lake are a good site to see birds characteristic of Egyptian farmlands, such as Spur-winged Plover, Graceful Warbler and Senegal Coucal along with migrants and winter visitors.

El Fayoum

Wadi El Rayan Protected Area (around a 45 minute drive from Qarun) is another wetland where waterbirds can be found in an attractive desert setting.

TIP:  Local bird guides are available for El Fayoum and environs.Birding can be combined with visits to the historic sites, local community and other ecotourism activities, such as camel rides and hiking.   For the more serious birder after target species, contact, Khalid  Abu Sttrer and Abdallah Farig   at 012-3680198 or 012-3680197. These experienced guides can make all logistic arrangements as needed, including vehicle, transfers, local accommodation, lunches and English speaking antiquities guide.  For those preferring a more causal birding experience, Note that the bird guides speak limited English and are still developing their birding skills.

Wadi El Naturn

This cultivated desert depression is situated on the fringe of the Nile Valley,1 1/2 hours drive north of Cairo. The lakes of Wadi El Naturn are home to Kittlitz’s Sandplover and are frequented by migrant and wintering waterbirds. The farmlands attract a variety of resident and migrant birds, with Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Rufous Bushchat common summer breeding visitors. Birding can be combined with visits to the area’s famous Coptic Monasteries.

Suez and Ain Sukhna are internationally important bottlenecks for migrating birds. Soaring bird migration occurs at Suez in the spring and autumn and it is important route for birds of prey with over 26 species of raptor recorded. It is particularly good for large eagles.

The mudflats at Suez Bay attract a variety waders, gulls and terns, including winter visitors like Greater Sand Plover and Armenian Gull along with the occasional vagrant, such as Terek Sandpiper. 

Ain Sukhna (45 minutes south of Suez) is a good site for observing spring migration. Raptors can be seen migrating along the Galala Plateau, while passerines and near passerines occur in the coastal gardens and scrub. Seabirds also can be seen in the offshore waters, including Red Sea specialities, White-eyed Gull and Swift Tern.

Hurghada is a tourist resort on the Red Sea coast of the Eastern Desert. The tourist village gardens teem with migrants, especially in the spring when the Red Sea coast is a “Migration Super Highway". Around 80 km north of Hurghada is Gabel Zeit, an internationally important bottleneck for migrating soaring birds.

Hurghada is best known for its seabird specialities, White-eyed Gull, Sooty Gull and Brown Bobby can be seen year round. Boat trips can be taken to the Red Sea Islands that are important summer breeding grounds for seabirds, such as White-cheeked Tern, Lesser Crested Tern and Bridled Tern. Sooty Falcon, a much sought after species breeds on the islands in the summer into the autumn.

Marsa Alam

The area south of Masa Alam to Berenice was recently opened to visitors. With little tourism infrastructure, this area is still unspoiled and offers good birding with a chance for Western Palearctic rarities.

Wadi Gamal Island is one of the most beautiful islands in the Red Sea with sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and a small mangrove. It is a nesting site for Red Sea birds, such as White-eyed Gull, Brown Booby and Osprey along with tens of Sooty Falcons.

Hamata Mangroves is a large stand of coastal mangroves that is inhabited by Spoonbill, Straited Heron and Western Reef Heron and is visited by Goliath Heron and Crab Plover. Large numbers of waders are reported on migration in the autumn.

The desert in this region is not well known, but the plains, wadis and mountains contain birds typical of the Eastern Desert, such as Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Lanner Falcon, Trumpter Finch and Sand Partridge. There have been recent discoveries of more unusual species, such as House Bunting, Hume's Tawny Owl, Pink-headed Dove and Lichenstein's Sandgrouse.

Shalatein

Visitors can now travel as far south as Shalatein along the Red Sea coast without permits.  Shalatein is a frontier town having the look and feel of the Wild West. The main tourist attraction is the camel market where Egyptians, desert tribesmen and Sudanese meet to barter and trade.  This is the best location in the Western Palearctic to see Lappet-faced Vulture, which feasts on the camel carcasses disposed on the outskirts of town. Egyptian and Grifton Vultures are also common. Other African specialities, such as Black-crowned Finch Lark and Pink-headed Dove sporadically occur.

Nile cruise

A Nile cruise is the ideal way to experience the antiquities and bird life of Upper Egypt. Birding can be done from the comfort of the boat as you float down the Nile past farmlands, desert, reedbeds and islands.

A cruise is interesting almost any time of year, with species such as African Skimmer and White-tailed Plover reported. During spring and autumn there is a visible migration of birds along the river. Winter is probably the best time to see the largest numbers and diversity of bird life when the Nile is teeming with waterbirds.

Luxor

With its world famous antiquities, a visit to Luxor is high on the agenda for most visitors. Farmland birds such as Black-shouldered Kite, Crested Lark and Fan-tailed Warbler and desert birds like Trumpeter Finch, African Rock Martin and Hooded Wheatear can be seen while touring the spectacular tombs and temples of the West Bank.

Crocodile Island south of Luxor is one of Upper Egypt’s top birding sites where resident, migrant and wintering birds can be found in the gardens, farmlands and reedbeds around the island. Nile Valley Sunbird, Sardinian Warbler, Bluethroat and Red-throated Pipit are just some of the species that may be encountered

Aswan

Aswan is the Heron Capital of the Western Palearctic where upwards of ten different species can be seen, including Striated Heron. Stops at the islands are also productive for birding, such as at Kitchener’s Botanical Garden. 

South of the city on an island between the two dams is the enchanting Temple of Philae, where migrants and sunbirds frequent the  vegetation. A boat tour of the reservoir between the dams can produce an assortment of waterbirds and is one of the best locations to see wintering Ferruginous Duck. 

Abu Simbel

Egypt’s most southerly settlement, just north of the border with Sudan, Abu Simbel is probably one of the best locations to find a new species for the Western Palearctic. Lake Nasser is a huge wetland with vast areas of habitat that is constantly changing depending upon the annual floods.

While famed for its magnificent temple Abu Simbel is known amongst birders for its African specialities that include: Egyptian Goose, African Pied Wagtail, African Skimmer, Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork and Pink-headed Dove.

The best time of year to visit Abu Simbel tends to be from late May to early September, but Abu Simbel is productive during other seasons. It is a good site for seeing migrants and wintering waterbirds along with interesting resident desert birds, such as Egyptian Nightjar.

North sinai

Birding in El Arish on the Mediterranean coast is off the beaten track for most birders, but is well worth the visit. The orchards and fields in Wadi El Arish are home to Sinai specialities: Palestine Sunbird, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Desert Finch (spring-summer), as well as is an excellent location to find interesting migrants and winter visitors. While a permit is needed, desert areas to the south harbor species such as Temminck's and Dunn's Larks.   

The Zaranik Protected Area 35km east of El Arish offers world class birding. From mid August to the end of September Zaranik is an internationally important bottleneck for migratory birds, with flock after flock of waterbird passing along the coast, while the beaches, scrub and saltmarshes are littered with passerines and near passerines. 

Over 200,000 Garganey migrate through Zaranik along with over 75 different species of waterbird. Cretzschmar's Bunting, Audubon's Gull and Corncrake are just some of the specialities annually seen. The reserve is productive during other seasons; Greater Flamingo occurs throughout the year.

South Sinai

Sharm El Sheikh is a popular Red Sea resort well known for birding and a good base for making day trips to nearby sites. Migrants can be found in the hotel gardens, particularly during the autumn when birds congregate at the southern tip of the peninsula, with such species as Orphean Warbler and Masked Shrike. 

The sewage farms are one of the best sites for seeing migrants along with resident Litchenstein’s, Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse which come daily to drink at the ponds. 

While Ras Mohammed National Park (25 km west of Sharm) is world renowned for its coral reefs, it is also an internationally important migration bottleneck in the autumn. A high percentage of the world population of White Storks passes through the area. The wadis around the park are home to desert birds such as Blackstart, Sand Partridge and Mourning Wheatear. Sooty Falcon is a regular summer breeding visitor which can be found into late autumn. Red Sea birds can be seen off the coast and in the mangroves. 

Nabaq Protected Area on the Gulf of Aqaba (a 20 minute drive from Sharm) is the most northern mangrove in the world and one of the best sites to see Red Sea birds, such as Western Reef Heron, Striated Heron and Sooty Gull. It is also an important stop over and refuelling site for migrating waders. Interesting species have been recorded, such as Pacific Golden Plover. 

St. Katherine Protectorate in the heart of the high altitude mountains of South Sinai is a world  famous natural and cultural heritage site. The gardens around St. Katherine Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai are frequented by Sinai specialities such as Sinai Rosefinch, Tristram’s Grackle and Chukar. Other desert residents are found including: Desert Lark, Scrub Warbler, White Crowned Black Wheatear and Hume’s Tawny Owl. It is also a good location to see migrants and winter visitors

Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city is worth a visit for those on longer holidays. Montazah Gardens is the best birding location. Migrants abound in spring and autumn. Unusual winter visitors for Egypt, mostly common European species, frequent the grounds.  Waterbirds can be seen along the coast and in nearby Lakes Idku and Maryut, while introduced specialities such as Avadavat occur in reedbeds.

West along the Mediterranean coast is another birding site, Al Alimein, a major battlefield during World War II. The gardens of the war memorials are migrant traps. Rüppell’s and Subalpine Warblers are commonly seen in the spring,  while interesting visitors can be found in winter, such as Moustached Warbler.

Further west is Marsa Matruh, a Mediterranean seaside resort rarely visited by foreign birders. A variety of birds pass through the area during migration. In the spring seven species of lark can befound breeding in the desert south of Maruh, including Dupont’s, Thick-billed and Lesser Short-toed Lark. Cream-colored Courser is a fairly common summer breeding visitor. 

 

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