By Hana Namrouqa – Apr 18,2018

AMMAN — The population of waterbirds in Jordan’s eastern desert, one important route for migratory birds, is declining “remarkably” with the passing of years, an ornithologist said on Wednesday.

Cycles of drought across the region is among the main reasons for the decline, the ornithologist said, citing results of an annual waterbird census that detected the dropping trend.

“In addition to drought and dropping rainfall, the number of waterbirds in the eastern desert is also declining because of habitat destruction and depletion of desert mudflats and water surfaces,” said Mohammad Zu’bi, an ornithologist with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which conducts the annual census.

Birds are normally attracted to the reflection of water across the country, according to researchers, who said that the number of migratory birds that stopover in Jordan every year depends on several factors, on top of which is the availability of water.

Jordan is home to 434 bird species, around 33 per cent of which are water birds, living on or around water. The census counted 143 species of waterbirds belonging to 23 families.

The census, which was first carried out in 1999, is implemented in January every year with the aim of identifying the number and species of waterbirds and their places of distribution. Local figures are used in international bird censuses used to identify the status of birds globally.

“Jordan remains the only country in the Middle East that annually implements the census. It covers 21 locations, including all dams in the Jordan Valley, major water treatment plants and mudflats,” Zu’bi told The Jordan Times.

This year, the census also showed that the Azraq Wetland Reserve attracted half of the waterbirds population in Jordan, Zu’bi said, highlighting that 30 per cent of waterbirds in Jordan were recorded during January.

“Against this backdrop of declining waterbirds in the eastern desert that is associated with drought cycles, the importance of the Aqaba Bird Observatory strongly stood out this year. A total of 55 per cent of all birds registered during a drought season were in the observatory,” the researcher noted.

Results of the census highlight the importance of migratory waterbirds stations across the country, especially Azraq and Aqaba, as an attraction for birds in the middle of the desert, Zu’bi noted.

“Protection of migratory birds can only happen if the routes they use during migration are protected, and this is what the RSCN aims at; to sustain and protect migratory birds’ attraction sites to ultimately protect them,” Zu’bi concluded.