By Kaushalendra Singh — SALALAH: Jan. 25 - Oman is home to ‘near-threatened’ species of sooty falcon (Falco concolor), as the Office for Conservation of the Environment (OCE) has taken up the challenging task of conserving the rare bird species from extinction. The sooty falcons are medium-sized falcons that breed in the Middle East and north-eastern Africa as also along the south-eastern coast of Africa. In Oman they are found mainly in the Daymaniyat Islands, Suwaydi Islands and Fahal Island and are globally important breeding grounds for them.
A survey done by M J McGrady of International Avian Research, Krems, Austria; and W al Fazari, A M al Jahdhami and A al Owisi of the Office for the Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, is quite interesting and revealing about the presence of the rare bird in the Sultanate.
Egypt, Oman and Saudi Arabia, according to the survey report, hold the largest breeding populations, mostly on islands. Information on breeding ecology comes principally from studies of nesting aggregations on islands in the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. Single breeders have been studied in the Negev and Libyan deserts.
“Unlike most other falcons the sooty falcon breeds in the late summer (June – October), feeding its offspring on smaller, migrating birds in autumn. Summertime breeding and the bird species’ general ecology is similar to that of its nearest relative, the Eleonora’s falcon (F. eleonorae),” said the survey report and stated that on the mainland it usually breeds singly, while on islands it can breed in relatively dense aggregations that sometimes number 150 breeding pairs. In these aggregations individual nests might be separated by only a few meters.
It is interesting to note that “Oman is a breeding stronghold for this species. The principal nesting areas are the Daymaniyat, Suwaydi and Fahal islands, which hold about 90-100 pairs. Sooty falcons also breed in low numbers on other islands (Bandar Jissa), and on the cliffs behind the coastal plain near Muscat.
The islands and mainland of the Musandam Peninsula have not been properly surveyed, but given the area could hold important numbers of breeding territories.”
The survey team sought a base-line survey of the coastal cliffs around Muscat and to the East “as a matter of completeness”.
It sought to explore Musandam to have better and define number and distribution of the Omani sooty falcon population.
The purpose of the Sooty Survey Project of the OCE is to gather ecological information about the sooty falcon that can help in the development of necessary conservation and protection plan of the species, including its numbers propagation and feeding pattern.