x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

First nests mark start of nesting season at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Dr Reza Khan, head of wildlife and zoo management at Dubai Municipality, says the sanctuary is gearing up to receive bird-watchers, tourists and students.

A Kentish plover with a clutch of eggs in its nest at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Courtesy of Marine Environment and Wildlife Section of the Dubai Municipality
A Kentish plover with a clutch of eggs in its nest at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Courtesy of Marine Environment and Wildlife Section of the Dubai Municipality

DUBAI // Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is doubling as a nursery for pairs of black-winged stilts and Kentish plovers this month.

Dr Reza Khan, head of wildlife and zoo management at Dubai Municipality, was the first to spot the nests at the sanctuary and says they are gearing up to receive birdwatchers, tourists and students as the nesting season of the migrating birds begins.

The Kentish plover, while not considered endangered, falls under the protection of the UN Environment Programme’s Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.

The birds at Ras Al Khor may have migrated from south-west Asia or Africa and can also be found in Europe or as far afield as Japan.

“Black-winged stilts lay eggs from late March until late August,” Dr Khan explained, “and the parents incubate the eggs alternately until they hatch. One nest usually contains two to four eggs and the incubation period lasts 22 to 27 days.”

The black-winged stilt is a long-legged wader that can grow up to 36cm in height. They have long pink legs, a thin black bill, and blackish plumage above with white below and a white head and neck with varying black markings.

Males have a black back, often with greenish gloss, while females are browner.

Immature birds are grey instead of black and have a markedly sandy hue on the wings, with light feather fringes appearing as a whitish line in flight.

“The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is keen to play its role in the protection of these birds, and provide them with livelihood opportunities for the sustainability of the natural heritage of the country and the protection of biodiversity,” Dr Khan said.

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* This story has been updated to correct a picture caption that incorrectly named the bird as a stilt rather than a Kentish plover.