ABU DHABI, 9th May 2016 (WAM) – A Greater Spotted Eagle tagged in Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi reached southern Russia by 24th April as part of its spring migration to its potential breeding areas in Russia and Kazakhstan, according to the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD). This is precisely the annual ritual migratory birds’ follow, arriving in the UAE during autumn and returning from mid-March onwards.

The eagle was tagged in February 2016 as part of EAD’s effort to understand migration of important and threatened species.

Like the Spotted Eagle, many other species of birds that had arrived in large numbers at key and important sites across the country have returned back or are on their spring migration to the breeding grounds in the north. Species of birds ranging from waterbirds, to land birds and from small passerine to large raptors, all follow more or less similar annual pattern.

Over 460 species of birds have been recorded in the country, and more than 75% are migratory. There are two distinct categories of migration, the one which comes during winter months largely from Europe and Central Asia to spend winter or to stopover en-route to wintering areas in Africa. The other type includes, a group of summer breeding birds, largely seabirds, which come from the Indian Ocean to breed. Due to these reasons, the bird calendar remains busy throughout the year.

Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, said: “EAD regularly monitors both migratory and resident birds across important sites in the Emirate. This is essential to document their numbers and trends as well as monitor the state of sites, said. While monitoring within protected areas helps us in improving and tailoring our management to the needs of migratory birds, monitoring other areas is important in identifying other important sites, which potentially could be protected in future.

Unfortunately migratory birds are faced with many challenges ranging from habitat loss, hunting, illegal killing or taking, poisoning and electrocution. Rapidly changing landscapes, urban and industrial expansion, particularly in the coastal areas make not only migratory, but also resident birds, highly vulnerable.

Actions ranging from monitoring of migratory birds, to protecting their habitats, preventing illegal killing or taking are some of the urgent actions we need to take collectively. Protecting sites across the emirates to provide safe refuge to migratory birds is not an option but a necessity and we need strong partnerships between emirates, government and non-government organisations and civil society.” said Dr. Shaikha.

Dr. Salim Javed, EAD’s Acting Director – Terrestrial Biodiversity said: “EAD also monitors long-distance migration of important bird species using satellite telemetry to understand their movement and migration patterns. Since 2005, the program has successfully tracked 12 different species of migratory waterbirds and raptors”.

“Our satellite tracking and on the ground monitoring of migratory birds have provided invaluable scientific information on migration of some of the key migratory species, some for the very first time”, said Dr. Salim Javed. We need good science and strong commitment to further support conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, not only locally but also regionally, he further added.

More about bird migration – Out of more than 460 species of birds recorded in the country, nearly 75% are migratory – Migratory birds in the UAE are of two main types, one which come during winter months largely from Europe and Central Asia to spend winter or stopover en-route to wintering areas in Africa – Not all the birds which come from Europe and Central Asia, spend winter in the UAE as there are a number of birds which are on passage in the UAE, stopping over for a brief period to refuel and rest, before continuing there with southward migration – Bird migration is an annual to and fro migration of birds from breeding areas to wintering areas – Birds use different strategies to undertake migration, some complete the migratory journey using several stops while some others fly non-stop between breeding and wintering areas – Bird migration is extremely challenging as birds have to undertake long journeys often covering several thousand kilometres perround trip – Birds have to overcome the odds of bad weather, unknown areas, hunting and other factors – Nearly 20% of all the 9500 species found globally are migratory