For a couple of years now, I have been chasing a bogey bird whenever I visit Dubai. The Arabian Babbler is a reasonably common bird with a preference for arid, scrubby areas. The best place to find them in Dubai is Mushrif Park, slightly west of the international airport, but four visits there had so far been unrewarded by Turdoides squamiceps.

DXB 16Feb16 Arabian Warbler 11

Whilst this would be my fifth visit to the park, the babbler had been relegated to “hopefully also”, rather than the prime target bird on two of the previous visits, so this was to be my third targeted attempt to find them.

DXB 16Feb16 Green Bee-eater 18

Mushrif Park can be productive on its day and Green Bee-eaters are reliable enough to brighten up a dull day. House Sparrow, Eurasian Collared Dove and Laughing Dove are abundant and vie to distract the eye at every turn. There is a paved road with an accompanying cycle path that describes a circle around the park. A couple of roads cut back through the circle to the central area which boasts a fast food restaurant, a mosque and toilets. DXB 16Feb16 Arabian Warbler 04

But this is not a tale of adversity or heroic feats to attain a prize, I walked about 400 meters before spotting a couple of birds with cocked tails shading beneath a bush. This is the classic signature that I had been hoping for and I spent the best part of 45 minutes watching a small group interacting. There were at least three birds, but possibly four or even five.

DXB 16Feb16 Arabian Warbler 10

Arabian Babblers live in co-operative groups usually consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring. The offspring remain and help out raising subsequent broods. More complex groups form when potential breeding males and/or females join. Status within the group is determined by the breeding pair and productive activity, such as feeding the new brood, grooming and helping to defend the territory can enhance standing within the group.

DXB 16Feb16 Arabian Warbler 12

Most experts would have us believe that the diet consists of invertebrates, small vertebrates such as geckos and lizards, berries and seeds. After my extensive observations, I can add chicken, corn-on-the-cob and onions to that list.

DXB 16Feb16 Arabian Warbler 09

Mushrif Park is a popular picnic and barbecue destination with facilities dotted liberally around the park. A few scraps are inevitably left behind and the babblers were looking to take advantage of the easy pickings.


Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.