Checklist of the Birds of the Socotra Archipelago

Richard Porter & Ahmed Saeed Suleiman

Ahmed Saeed Suleiman and I have updated the Socotra Bird Checklist following new discoveries this year. Also the resident white-eye has now been assigned endemic species status – Socotra White-eye – bringing the number of endemic species in the archipelago to eleven. This is likely to increase to twelve when a review of the taxonomy of the grey shrikes is completed as the resident shrike could be elevated from endemic subspecies to endemic species too – Socotra Grey Shrike.

This is very timely as UNESCO and IUCN are undertaking a review of the status of the Socotra Archipelago World Heritage Site and providing up-to-date information on the avifauna is important for their files and their assessment in which we are participating.

Richard Porter, April 2020

Prepared for BirdLife International, Environment Protection Authority, Friends of Socotra, Ornithological Society of the Middle East and all those interested in the wildlife of these wonderful islands.

Please send records to: RFPorter@talktalk.net or qamhem@yahoo.co for inclusion in the SocotraBirds data base.

The taxonomic order, English names and scientific names of birds are frequently under review and revision and this can cause confusion. In this list we have been conservative and generally adopted the recommendations of the International Ornithological Congress. However the Ornithological Society of the Middle East produces and regularly updates an OSME Region List on the OSME website: osme.org. Serious researchers should consult this as its cutting-edge studies will often result in changes that are accepted by the IOC and other taxonomic authorities.

To keep you abreast of current taxonomic studies that may affect the birds of Socotra, a list of those that are relevant to the archipelago are listed in an appendix, prepared by Mike Blair, coordinator of the OSME Region List.

Key:
Vagrant: a species recorded 5 times or less.
Species in BLUE CAPITALS have internationally important populations on Socotra
Text in red gives BirdLife International/IUCN Red list status

Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus
Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
Passage migrant

Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei
Status uncertain; vagrant or occasional breeding visitor.

White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Vagrant

Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
Vagrant

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Vagrant

Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus
Vagrant

Garganey Spatula querquedula
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Gadwall Mareca strepera
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope
Rare winter visitor

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Vagrant

Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Vagrant Globally Vulnerable

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Vagrant Globally Near Threatened

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Vagrant

European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
Vagrant

Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius
Vagrant.

Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus
Resident breeder

Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris
Vagrant

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Vagrant

FORBES-WATSON’S SWIFT Apus berliozi
Breeding visitor; present most of year

Little Swift Apus affinis
Vagrant

Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii
Vagrant. Globally Vulnerable

White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus
Resident breeder

Pied Cuckoo Oxylophus jacobinus
Vagrant

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus
Vagrant

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Uncommon passage migrant

Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
Resident breeder

Feral Pigeon Columba livia forma domestica
Resident; introduced

Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis
Resident breeder

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
Vagrant

Bruce’s Green Pigeon Treron waalia
Resident breeder

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Vagrant

Corncrake Crex crex
Vagrant

Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla
Vagrant

Little Crake Porzana parva
Vagrant

Spotted Crake Porzana porzana
Vagrant

Watercock Gallicrex cinerea
Vagrant

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Uncommon visitor; has bred at least once.

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
Vagrant, has bred

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Vagrant

Common Crane Grus grus
Vagrant

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Vagrant; may have bred

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Winter visitor

Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Vagrant Globally Near Threatened

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Resident and probably winter visitor & passage migrant

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Vagrant

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Resident breeder & winter visitor

Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius atrifrons
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
Vagrant

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Vagrant

Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Winter visitor & passage migrant Globally Near Threatened

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Winter visitor & passage migrant Globally Near Threatened

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Vagrant Globally Near Threatened

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Sanderling Calidris alba
Uncommon winter visitor & passage migrant

Little Stint Calidris minuta
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Dunlin Calidris alpina
Uncommon winter visitor & passage migrant

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Winter visitor & passage migrant Globally Near Threatened

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta
Vagrant

Red Knot Calidris canutus
Vagrant

Ruff Calidris pugnax
Uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant

Broad-billed Sandpiper Calidris falcinellus
Vagrant

Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus
Vagrant

Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus
Vagrant

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Passage migrant in offshore waters

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Vagrant

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Vagrant

Crab-plover Dromas ardeola
Vagrant

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
Resident breeder

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola
Vagrant

BROWN NODDY Anous stolidus
Breeding summer visitor; present offshore throughout year

Lesser Noddy Anous tenuirostris
Vagrant

Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
Vagrant

Common Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Great Black-headed Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus
Vagrant

White-eyed Gull Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Rare visitor. Globally Near Threatened

SOOTY GULL Ichthyaetus hemprichii
Resident & winter visitor

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans
Rare winter visitor

Baltic Gull Larus fuscus fuscus
Uncommon winter visitor

Heuglin’s Gull Larus heuglini
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Steppe Gull Larus barabensis
Uncommon winter visitor

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Rare winter visitor & passage migrant.

Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Rare winter visitor & passage migrant

Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
Winter visitor & passage migrant

SAUNDERS’S TERN Sternula saundersi
Breeding summer visitor

BRIDLED TERN Onychoprion anaethetus
Breeding summer visitor

Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus
Passage migrant

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii
Vagrant

Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Winter visitor & passage migrant

White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa
Passage migrant

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Uncommon passage migrant

White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Rare passage migrant

Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus
Vagrant

RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD Phaethon aethereus
Breeds; offshore throughout the year

Wilson’s Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus
Summer visitor to offshore waters

White-bellied Storm Petrel Fregetta grallaria
Recorded offshore; but true status uncertain

Black-bellied Storm Petrel Fregetta tropica
Recorded offshore; but true status uncertain

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica
Recorded offshore; status uncertain

Flesh-footed Shearwater Ardenna carneipes
Recorded offshore; status uncertain Globally Near Threatened

PERSIAN SHEARWATER Puffinus persicus
Breeding visitor; offshore throughout year.

JOUANIN’S PETREL Bulweria fallax
ENDEMIC Breeding visitor; present offshore throughout the year. Globally Near Threatened

Western White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Vagrant

Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Vagrant

MASKED BOOBY Sula dactylatra
Breeds; offshore throughout the year

BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster
Breeds; offshore throughout the year

Reed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus
Vagrant

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Vagrant

Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis

SOCOTRA CORMORANT Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
Resident and probably winter visitor. Globally Vulnerable

African Darter Anhinga rufa
Vagrant

African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus
Vagrant

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Rare visitor

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Vagrant

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Rare visitor; may breed.

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Striated Heron Butorides striata
Status uncertain; probably an uncommon resident breeder

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
Winter visitor and possibly present throughout the year.

Malagasy Pond Heron Ardeola idae
Vagrant Globally Endangered

Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Winter visitor & passage migrant; may breed.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Vagrant

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Western Great Egret Ardea alba
Uncommon winter visitor

Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Vagrant

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
Vagrant

Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Resident breeder

EGYPTIAN VULTURE Neophron percnopterus
Resident breeder. Globally Endangered

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Vagrant

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennata
Vagrant

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Vagrant

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Vagrant Globally Near Threatened

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius
Vagrant
(See also NOTE below)

Socotra Buzzard Buteo socotraensis
Socotra Buzzard Buteo socotraensis

SOCOTRA BUZZARD Buteo socotraensis
ENDEMIC Resident breeder Globally Vulnerable

Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus
Vagrant

SOCOTRA SCOPS OWL Otus socotranus
ENDEMIC Resident breeder.

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
Vagrant

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Vagrant

Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Vagrant

Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus
Vagrant

European Roller Coracias garrulus
Passage migrant. Globally Near Threatened

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Vagrant

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
Passage migrant

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Resident breeder

Amur Falcon Falco amurensis
Vagrant or rare passage migrant

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
Vagrant

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Resident breeder

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Vagrant

Daurian/Turkestan Shrike Lanius isabellinus/phoenicuroides
Vagrant or rare passage migrant

Socotra Grey Shrike Lanius exubitor uncinatus
Socotra Grey Shrike Lanius exubitor uncinatus

SOCOTRA GREY SHRIKE Lanius exubitor uncinatus
Resident breeder.
NOTE: taxonomic status under review – see Appendix

Steppe Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor pallidirostris
Vagrant

Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Vagrant

House Crow Corvus splendens
Arrived on boat in 1996; bred.
Eradicated in 2009

Pied Crow Corvus albus
Vagrant or rare visitor

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Resident breeder

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix nigriceps
Resident breeder

Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Rare passage migrant

Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Rare passage migrant

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Passage migrant

Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne obsoleta
Resident breeder

Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Vagrant

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Vagrant

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Vagrant

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Vagrant

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Vagrant

Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Vagrant

SOCOTRA CISTICOLA Cisticola haesitatus
ENDEMIC Resident breeder. Globally Near Threatened

Socotra Warbler Incana incana
Socotra Warbler Incana incana

SOCOTRA WARBLER Incana incana
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Rare winter visitor & passage migrant

Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula
Vagrant

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Vagrant

Ménétriés’s Warbler Sylvia mystacea
Vagrant

Socotra White-eye Zosterops socotranus
Socotra White-eye Zosterops socotranus

SOCOTRA WHITE-EYE Zosterops socotranus
(Recently split from Abyssinian White-eye Zosterops abyssinicus)
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Vagrant

Somali Starling Onychognathus blythii
Resident breeder

SOCOTRA STARLING Onychognathus frater
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

Black-throated Thrush Turdus atrogularis
Vagrant

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Vagrant

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Vagrant

Western Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Vagrant

Common Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Vagrant

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Rare winter visitor

Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Vagrant

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Vagrant

Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka
Winter visitor & passage migrant

SOCOTRA SUNBIRD Chalcomitra balfouri
Socotra Sunbird Chalcomitra balfouri

SOCOTRA SUNBIRD Chalcomitra balfouri
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

SOCOTRA SPARROW Passer insularis
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

ABD AL-KURI SPARROW Passer hemileucus
ENDEMIC Resident breeder. Globally Vulnerable

Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava spp
Passage migrant

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla (flava) feldegg
Vagrant

Yellow-headed Wagtail Motacilla (flava) lutea
Status uncertain; probably rare passage migrant or vagrant

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Vagrant

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Uncommon winter visitor & passage migrant

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Winter visitor & passage migrant

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Rare passage migrant

LONG-BILLED PIPIT Anthus similis
Resident breeder

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Vagrant

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Vagrant

SOCOTRA GOLDEN-WINGED GROSBEAK Rhynchostruthus socotranus
ENDEMIC Resident breeder

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
Vagrant

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi
Resident breeder

Socotra Bunting Emberiza socotrana
Socotra Bunting Emberiza socotrana

SOCOTRA BUNTING Emberiza socotrana
ENDEMIC Resident breeder. Globally Vulnerable

NOTE

Black Kite In addition to Yellow-billed Kites (which have been specifically identified), black kites (probably Milvus migrans) have also been recorded as vagrants.

Brown/South Polar Skua Stercorarius antarcticus/maccormicki
(species not determined)
Vagrant

UNSUBSTANTIATED REPORTS
For the following species no supporting details or descriptions are available. They are listed for completeness.

Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas
African Spoonbill Platalea alba
Red-footed Booby Sula sula
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Eleonora’s Falcon Falco eleonorae
Sooty Falcon Falco concolor
Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Hume’s Tawny Owl Strix butleri
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata
Little Rock Thrush Monticola rufocinerea

APPENDIX: TAXONOMIC STUDIES

The following taxa on the Socotra list are the subject of taxonomic studies, whose conclusions are briefly described below. The OSME Region List v10.2 has adopted these changes. For greater detail, please consult the ORL and the references mentioned in the applicable entry.

Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii likely will become Nyctiperdix lichtensteinii.

A review of the Porzana crakes proposes that several should be moved to Zapornia. This includes Baillon’s Z. pusilla and Little Crakes, Z. parva, but Baillon’s Crake has also been split into Western and Eastern Baillon’s Crakes by several authorities. This means that Socotra would encounter Western Baillon’s Crake Z. intermedia.

Several Charadrius plovers will probably move to Anarhynchus, the Socotra taxa involved being Kentish Plover A. alexandrinus, Lesser Sand Plover A. atrifrons, Greater Sand Plover A. leschenaultii and Caspian Plover A. asiaticus.

A most detailed published review of oceanic birds of the world brings together many threads of evidence, published and unpublished. Socotra taxa concerned may become as follows:

• The Lesser Noddy Anous tenuirostris of Socotran waters likely will be treated as part of a superspecies, but with its distribution now being better understood, it is proposed that the English name of Indian Black Noddy will better describe it.

• Bridled Tern is a proposed split. It is suggested that those in Socotran waters become Eastern Bridled Tern without a change of scientific name, Western Bridled Tern of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific being Onychoprion melanoptera, the two being part of a superspecies.

• Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethurus is proposed split into two species as part of a superspecies, those in the OSME Region becoming Arabian Tropicbird P. indicus, those in the Atlantic and Pacific retaining the former English and scientific names.

• The White-bellied Storm Petrel Fregetta grallaria and Black-bellied Storm Petrel F. tropica are proposed split into six species forming a superspecies. The taxon listed at present in the Socotran list as White-bellied Storm Petrel F. grallaria is provisionally considered to become Inaccessible Storm Petrel F. ‘melanoleuca’ whose formal identity requires much more work. In Socotran waters, Black-bellied Storm Petrel is scarce, but vastly outnumbers inaccessible Storm Petrel anywhere in the Indian Ocean.

• Provisionally, Brown Booby Sula leucogaster may split into 3 species in a superspecies, only one of which occurs in the OSME Region, as Indo-Pacific Booby S. plotus.

Whilst only Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo has been recorded on Socotra, White-breasted Cormorant P. lucidus is a possible vagrant and it should be noted that this has now been split from P. carbo.

Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia has been split by several authorities into three species, the one encountered in Socotra being Yellow-billed Egret A. brachyrhyncha.

Much work needs to be done to clarify the relationships between the four populations of reef egrets (reef herons) worldwide, and in turn their relationships to Little Egret Egretta garzetta. The Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis subspecies schistacea encountered in Socotra is quite different from that of West Africa, E.g. gularis. It is possible from the relatively limited genetic data available that some populations of Little Egret will in future be grouped as one species with some reef-heron populations.

The migratory Steppe Buzzards Buteo buteo vulpinus that are vagrant to Socotra are perhaps best described as ‘Northern Steppe Buzzard’ to distinguish it from the sedentary smaller B.b. menetriesi of North Africa as ‘Southern Steppe Buzzard’. The two taxa are but part of the complex ongoing review and revision of the Common Buzzard B. buteo complex and its relationships to other Buteo species.

Genetic evidence confirms that placing OSME Region large grey shrikes in Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis was in error attributable to cryptic similarity of plumages and structure. Palearctic taxa west of roughly 100°E should be placed in Great Grey Shrike L. excubitor as the most conservative position. It is likely that many of these taxa will merit elevation to species rank, especially the Socotran taxon uncinatus. As for taxon pallidirostris, ‘Steppe Grey Shrike’ (which breeds in saxaul habitat, not the steppes), it probably will become a subspecies of L lahtora, should that be elevated to species rank from its current conservative description as L. excubitor lahtora.

Genetic evidence at present indicates that Barn Swallow may merit splitting, Eurasian Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica including all subspecies roughly as far east as 100°E, and American Barn Swallow including all Nearctic subspecies and those in the Eastern Palearctic roughly as far west as 100°E.

Of the Sylvia warblers in the OSME Region, all except Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla and Garden Warbler S. borin, will probably move to the genus Curruca.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius has been proposed as a split with strong evidence between eastern and western populations, the eastern occurring in the OSME region probably only in Afghanistan, the western stretching well into Europe. Western Rock Thrush M. solitarius is the winter visitor to Socotra. However, until all taxa distributions are better known and the existence or otherwise of intergrade populations is established, formal acknowledgement of the split may have to wait.

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