Jutting north from the Arabian Peninsula, the State of Qatar is a subtropical desert environment filled with sand dunes and desert scrub. No natural rivers or lake exist in this small country, which might lead you to surmise there wouldn't be a lot of bird life either, but the Persian Gulf shorelines surrounding Qatar on three sides, along with man-made wetlands and desert oases, shelter almost 300 species. Most of these species find a home in or around the capital city of Doha. About 23 breed, 78 are winter visitors and 104 are more-or-less regular migrants; the rest are vagrant or are rarely recorded.

Salwa Road Ponds are a series of freshwater pools 12 miles southwest of Doha. Treated water from a sewage plant feeds the pools, which host migratory birds that flock to the area during winter. Reeds and tall grasses surround the pools, offering sheltered nesting sites.

Al-Aliyah Island is a mile offshore northeast of Doha. The rocky island is small but provides an important breeding ground for birds in its interior tidal flats. A sand spit extends for more than a mile at low tide, serving up mussels and other small delicacies appealing to seabirds. The island provides a haven for large seabirds such as cormorants, herons, egrets and flamingos. Curlew, Dunlin, Crested Terns and other shorebirds also utilize the island during winter.

Although you'll find the bird population to be most dense in the wetlands, you can find a few desert dwellers near Doha. Look for Houbara and MacQueen's bustards on rocky slopes, sand dunes and coastal plains. Five species of dove found in the Doha area include the Laughing Dove, Eurasian Turtle Dove, and Namaqua Dove. Quail are also common desert dwellers.

Houbara Bustard

Houbara Bustard © Stephen Daly

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