By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Red-rumped Wheatear, an internationally important and rare bird, and the Egyptian Vulture, a globally endangered species, have been found for the first time in Jabal Masouda, one of four proposed protected areas in the Kingdom.

Ecological studies carried out by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) also registered 65 types of birds in Jabal Masouda, 40 of which nest in the area.

Located in the south of Jordan in Maan Governorate, the area is named after the highest mountain peak, Jabal Masouda. The site, with an elevation ranging between 180 and 1,500 metres above sea level, contains three bio-geographical zones – Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian and Saharo-Arabian – according to the RSCN.

The area, part of Al Sharah range, is characterised by steep mountains and seven types of vegetation, ranging from juniper in the highlands to sand dunes and acacia trees along the valleys in the lowlands, according to the RSCN.

“In addition, we have registered large numbers of migratory and endangered birds in Jabal Masouda, including the Egyptian Vulture, which is locally and globally threatened according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,” RSCN bird researcher Tarek Qaneer told The Jordan Times on Monday.

He also noted that large numbers of the Dead Sea Sparrow were recorded in Fifa in Ghor Safi, another proposed protected area.

“We also registered over 4,000 migratory birds of prey within a three-day period last year in the Jabal Masouda and Rahmeh protected areas. In addition, we registered 68 types of birds in the Yarmouk Nature Reserve, 52 of which nest in the area,” Qaneer noted.

During a study carried out in March last year, 42 types of birds were registered in Fifa, 22 of which nest at the site, as well as 15 types of nesting birds in Qatar, another proposed protected area.

“Outcomes of our study highlight the environmental importance of the Jordan Valley area, particularly for nesting and migrating birds,” he underscored, highlighting several practices that threaten migrating and nesting birds.

“Illegal logging and hunting are the main threats to several types of birds in northern Jordan, mainly the Syrian Woodpecker, especially since Jordan’s northern forests are this bird’s natural habitat,” Qaneer said.

He added that the number of bird species registered in the Jordan Valley highlight the area’s environmental uniqueness and the importance of protecting it as a “legacy of nature”.

“The Jordan Valley constitutes a vital habitat for birds and different types of animals and plants,” he stressed.

The Great Rift Valley is internationally categorised as a “bottleneck site” for migrating birds, which stop over along the Jordan Valley to rest, feed and nest.

The Great Rift Valley is the world’s second most important route for migratory birds and forms a major attraction for soaring birds, with some 1.5 million birds crossing the area during the migration season.

In 2008, the RSCN launched the Integrated Ecosystem Management-Jordan Rift Valley Project (IEM-JRV), which aims at setting guidelines for land use to ensure the sustainability of financial resources supporting current and future environment-related projects and programmes.

Under the project, a network of four nature reserves covering a total area of 570 square kilometres will be established along the entire length of the Jordan Rift Valley in the Yarmouk River Basin, Fifa, Qatar and Jabal Masuda.

Under the IEM–JRV Project, implemented by the RSCN, four special conservation areas will be also launched – Homret Maeen, Ben Hammad, Rahmeh and Yarmouk.