BIRDWATCHING SITES IN EGYPT |
BIRD WATCHING SITES IN LUXOR |
IBAs IN EGYPT
HABITATS IN EGYPT | BIRDS OF LUXOR | BIRDWATCHING ON THE NILE
ANCIENT EGYPTIANS AND BIRDS
also see: EGYPT: ANIMALS - REPTILES | EGYPT: ORNITHOLOGY BOOKS
Crocodile Island has been re-named 'Kings Island' by the new owner of the Jolie Ville Hotel, Crocodile Tourist Projects Company (delisted by the Egyptian Exchange from 5 Feb 2010; HKS-Group - a Private Sector Egyptian investment Group).
The island is a Protected Area under Law 102/1982. However, in January 2010 bulldozers and earth movers began work on a development which, over the next 2 - 3 years, will double the number of residential units - expanding into the ecologically sensitive southern part of the island, which is so important for the tiny Nile Valley Sunbird (below).
We are concerned about possible Damage to the birdwatching habitat - see www.surfbirds.com.
We also don't know how peaceful the island can be during 2010.
The only globally endangered bird species in Egypt is the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) - but Egypt has several species on the IUCN Red List Category: "Vulnerable": Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) and Syrian Serin (Serinus syriacus).
With an incredible variety of habitats, and as the only land bridge between Africa and Asia, Egypt is a vitally important bird migration route between Africa and Asia. Egypt has a stunning 430-500 species of birds - one third of them breeding here.
All birds of prey and most large birds such as storks, cranes, herons and flamingoes are protected by Egyptian law.
Every autumn in Egypt, unregulated hunters net, trap and shoot 1-2 million birds - including globally threatened species such as the Corncrake which inahbit the Egyptian Mediterranean coastline.
Another problem is the pollution of many of Egypt's wetlands, particularly from oil pollution in the Delta. Elsewhere uncontrolled solid waste dumping is more of an issue.
Loss / Degradation of Habitat
Habitat destruction through development is becoming a problem too - see the news flash about Crocodile Island at the top of the page. Reclamation, overgrazing, unsustainable tourism and haphazard quarrying need careful regulation. The huge Nile cruisers, laden with holiday makers, also erode the banks of the Nile, although the speed limit imposed on them is designed to minimise their impact. The traditional dahabiyya (dahabiya), as used by Thomas Cook in the 19th century, was a much more eco-friendly - and beautiful - way of cruising the Nile! Dahabiyya Nile Cruises can still be booked - but carry a luxury price tag.
A conservation program for Egypt's IBAs advocates incorporating some of the unprotected IBAs into a National Protectorate Network which can then be managed a 'Protected Areas', and the promotion of sustainable and environmentally friend economic activities, such as nature-based tourism, at IBAs, as well as raising public awareness and support for IBA conservation and involving local people, NGOs and the business community more in IBA conservation and management.
Luxor is a wonderful place for birdwatching. The variety of habitats includes from wetland, arid desert, dense vegetation, gardens and built up areas. Birds of prey seem equally at home on the tall arials of Television Street and in the desert!
The 'U' shaped bird hovering above the Nile River will be a Kingfisher - Egypt is home to the only hovering Kingfisher! Exotic species range from Sunbirds - tiny nectar-feeders - to large, ungainly Hoopoes and Ibis. House sparrows - the Egyptians love them! - and hooded crows are everywhere.
Crocodile Island is one of Upper Egypt's top bird watching sites - it's one place you can usually rely on seeing Nile Valley Sunbirds. There are Sardinian Warblers, Bluethroat and Red-throated Pipits, wading birds and many others. Watch for migrant and wintering birds in the gardens, farmlands and reedbeds around the island. If you see a 'moorhen' - take another look - it might prove to be a Purple Gallinule on closer inspection. The hotel on the island also has two pelicans - one of which had a rather too close encounter with the resident crocodile and lost the top portion of its bill - as our photo shows.
Anywhere you go around the Luxor area you're likely to see interesting birds - but Glossy Ibis are most likely to be seen as a fly-past overhead, so look up and keep your eyes peeled! The archaeological sites are good places for spotting bee eaters, hoopoe, brown necked ravens, rock martins, various swifts, birds of prey and many other interesting birds. Just head for the perimeter, away from the crowds.
A Nile cruise in a Nile boat or a felucca is the ideal way to experience Egypt's bird life.
Sailing on the Nile in a small boat, you will be delighted by the swifts which skim and swoop at the felucca's prow as it cuts through the water - and the breathtaking hover and plummet of the wonderful kingfishers! As you float down the grand waterway of Egypt you pass farmlands, desert, reedbeds and islands, a variety of wetlands and arid habitats.
This combination of varied habitats and it's role in bird migration routes means that the Nile area teems with a vast variety of bird species. Even in winter the Nile River teems with waterbirds, but spring and autumn migrations along the Nile cause an explosion in both numbers and varieties of species.
If you travel south to the High Dam at Aswan, be aware that you can't take photographs there - it is a very sensitive area and cameras and telescopes are banned.
Whether you've come especially for a 'Birdwatching Holiday in Luxor' or you're just making the most of the excellent birdwatching opportunities as part of an archaeological and sightseeing trip, you'll find Luxor a rewarding place. Even if the people travelling with you don't have an interest in birdwatching you should be able to keep everyone happy!
Here is just a small selection of the interesting variety of bird species around Luxor which are most easily spotted:
Laughing Doves - or Palm doves - (Streptopelia senegalensis) are surprisingly widespread considering that they are careless nest builders, and their eggs often fall through holes in the nest. It helps that the Palm Dove is protected from hunting, because legend says that it rested on the Prophet Mohammed's tomb at Mecca.
The Pied Kingfisher is amazing - it hovers at a great height, making a wonderful arched silhouette - and then it plunges into the Nile!
Egypt is not all dry desert land - there are some wonderful wetlands in coastal and marshy areas, and, of course, the river. The Nile River itself has many different habitats. Flowing from the heart of Africa, through lakes (notably the now dammed Lake Nasser), around river-islands and beside reedbeds, to the Delta where it pours into the Mediterranean Sea in the north. For all the controversy around Lake Nasser, it is a valuable resource — the only breeding ground for the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus in Egypt, and now becoming an important wintering area for migratory water birds such as the Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula. The wetlnad habitat of Lake Qarun, in the Al Fayoum region, supports wide range of waterbirds, from spoonbill to marsh sandpiper. Huge flocks of pelicans congregate on the lakes around the otherwise parched Abu Simbel, and winter visitors to the Zerenike Protectorate on Lake Bardawil include flamingo, white pelican and spoonbill.
Egypt's coastal habitats are also valuable. In spring osprey, eagles, vultures and other birds of prey haunt the sea cliffs of Ain Sukhna, by Red Sea.
Arid Habitats & Oasis Habitats
In the desert areas you can see (or at least hear) eagle owls — and the oases are rich habitats within the deserts. The Siwa oasis, for instance has species ranging from tiny quail to birds of prey such as falcon.
There are 34 Important Bird Areas or IBAs in Egypt, in a wide range of habitats: wetlands, high altitude mountains, desert wadis, coastal plains and marine islands. Fifteen of Egypt's IBAs are in existing Protected Areas and other sites have been proposed.
To qualify as IBAs sites must have:
Nature tourism (including bird watching tourism) is increasingly important economically in Egypt especially at St.Katherine, the Red Sea Islands and Zaranik in North Sinai.
The Ancient Egyptians were very aware of the birds around them and often portrayed them in their art. The god Horus was usually represented as a falcon, or as a man with a falcon's head. In Egyptian hieroglyphs (a phonic system) the name 'Horus' was written as r.w, and apparently pronounced Hāru, meaning 'Falcon'. Thoth is usually depicted in human form with the head of an ibis. Ra is primarily depicted as a man in artwork, often with a falcon's head, much like Horus.