Oman is a destination for migratory birds during Spring and Autumn. Some pass through, others like White Storks and Steppe Eagles overwinter in Oman using it as a food larder and return to breeding grounds to the north. But there are some that come to Oman and breed, and included in these are the Sooty Falcon, Falco concolor.
The Sooty Falcon is a medium-sized falcon with, as its name suggests, a colour that is a shade of grey, perhaps slate grey. It’s a relatively rare bird whose world population is estimated as 10,000 of which some 500 breed in Arabia. Though the bird was first studied in Oman in 1978 its only since 2007 that an in-depth analysis of this Falcon has taken place with core research undertaken from 2008-2014 by a team, including Waheed Al Fazari of Sultan Qaboos University and Dr Mike McGrady of International Avian Research.
The choice of nest location in Oman is ideal for the Falcon as they face out from sea cliffs, a great vantage point for a hunter of small birds to spot prey and launch into an attack.
Sooty Falcons arrive in Oman from late April and, having established their territory, breeding will start from late June. Unfortunately for researchers, such as Waheed, the nest locations are usually extremely difficult to reach and, as the birds breed in Oman’s near 50c summer heat, exhausting to climb up to. By late summer the chicks are ready to fly and during October migration starts across the Rub Al Khali into the Horn of Africa and eventually, in November, the birds arrive in Madagascar after a journey of around 6,000kms. Madagascar will be their home during the winter of the northern hemisphere.
A film of these beautiful and rare birds in both Oman and Madagascar has been made, funded by the Oman government, and is available through this web site.