The First Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus (Temminck, 1821) in Iraq

During the series of the field surveys arranged and conducted by the Iraqi Organization for Conservation of Nature (IOCN) in various locations and habitats in Iraq, the team had the opportunity to survey various areas within Iraq in different seasons
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    ABSTRACT  During the series of the field surveys arranged and conducted by the Iraqi Organization for Conservation of Nature (IOCN) in various locations and habitats in Iraq, the team had the opportunity to survey various areas within Iraq in different seasons over the period 2015-2019 where new observations of bird species and breeding evidences were made as the first records for Iraq. During one of these surveys is Kurdistan Region, northern Iraq, an individual of Oriental Honey Buzzard (also called Crested Honey Buzzard) Pernis  ptilorhynchus was observed in Dhouk District while flying over the area of the mountainous and plains habitats in Fish-Khabour area, 8km east of Zakho city at March, 2018, crossing Khabour River. This species breeds in central and the eastern parts of Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and migrates as westward as Turkey and the Middle East. The species was found as a vagrant at Yemen and eastern Mediterranean areas and Egypt and central-eastern Africa. Within the area around Iraq, this species has been observed in Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, and the KSA. This paper confirms the first observation for this species for Iraq.  The First Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus   (Temminck, 1821) in Iraq  Mudhafar A. Salim 1 and Salwan Ali Abed 2  1 The Arab Regional Center for World Heritage, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain   2 College of Science, University of Al-Qadisiyah, P.O.Box.1895, Iraq   (Received 10, July, 2019; accepted 15 September, 2019)   Keywords : Crested, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Iraq, Birds of Prey, New Bird Species for Iraq  Introduction  Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus , also known as Crested Honey Buzzard. OHB Pernis  ptilorhynchus is a common Asian raptor that classi- fied as a least concern (IUCN, 2008), with a wide range of resident and migratory populations (BirdLife International, 2016). Only once was recorded this Asian species in conti- nental Africa, in May 1996 in Egypt (Baha el Din S & Baha el Din M. 1997). Northern migrating race Orientalis breeds from Southern Siberia and North- ern Mongolia to North Korea and Japan, and mi- grates (from late August) to South and South East Asia. Migration in the Middle East has since been re- ported in Oriental Honey Buzzards, including Israel (more than 20 records since 1994), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman (Shirihai et al. 2000; Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001; Eriksen et al., 2003; Richardson 2003; Babbington and Campbell, 2016). During spring 2004, three birds were reported in Egypt (Baha el Din S & Baha el Din M. 1997). The new field guide from the area (Porter & Aspinall 2010) reveals that it is rare in winter and on the way to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and southern Iran and a vagabond elsewhere. In Iran, Oriental Honey Buzzard was first recorded as re- cently as 1999 but the total number of records had reached 23 by December 2010, mainly from the rela- tively well-watched Hormozgan province (Mark and Colin, 2000; Khaleghizadeh et al., 2011). Other recent first country records come from Cyprus (21  *Corresponding author’s email:  Eco. Env. & Cons. 25 (4) : 2019; pp. (370-373) Copyright@ EM International ISSN 0971 – 765X    SALIM AND ALI ABED 371 October 2012), Bahrain (13 September 2013) and Qatar (12 May 2014, Morris 2014). In other Middle Eastern countries, particularly since 2000, OHB has also occurred more frequently. As of September 2013, 124 records were recorded in Oman (compared to 51 records for European Honey Buzzard). November –  January is a large majority, with few records in spring (February – May) and no records in June – August (Eriksen and Victor 2013). Looking at the UAE case, there is only one record in September. There is no doubt that the temporal dis- tribution of records represents observer behavior in Oman in part, but there the species is clearly grow- ing, and the wintering population in the Dhofar region’s green areas that exceed 30 individuals. OHB first country record for Kuwait was Sep- tember 21, 2001 and 23 additional records, mostly single tracks, were released on May 31, 2014 (M Pope and A Al-Sirhan in litt). Oriental Honey Buz- zard is now seen annually in Israel in the autumn, winter and (especially) in the spring, where it was first recorded in 1994 (Faveyts et al., 2011; Mikolaj et al., 2008).  Methodologies  The field observations were made in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, at Sindy plain, east of Zakho city in Dhouk district within 11-20 March, 2018 (Fig.1). The survey area is located around 6km km to the north of River Khabour between Zakho and Bateefa town. The survey area is located between the latitudes (N  37° 11’ 00") and (N 37° 05’ 12"), and the longitudes (E 42° 43’  50") and (E 43° 01’  55"). Three bird-experts took place in surveying Syndi area where the entire area (described above) was covered. The surveys have started at the undulated plain to the east of Zakho city eastward to the valley that goes to the south of Bateefa town. The northern banks of River Khabour were surveyed and the mountainous areas south to the Iraqi-Turkish borders were covered by the survey as well. The surveyed area consists mountainous range to the north that goes east-west, however, the eastern parts of the surveyed area consists of relatively sharp cliffs and large valley. The middle parts of the   surveyed areas consist of undulated hills with soft slopes and valleys of relatively shallow depts. The area consists of good plant cover of scattered Oak   trees and bushes that concentrates at the bottoms of the valleys. The flat plains and those with fine slopes were full with grass and scattered smaller shrubs during the survey time. The area consists of some agricultural farms (apparently wheat) that   depend on the rains. These farms concentrate at the   western and middle parts of the surveyed area where the ground are more suitable for agriculture. Four-wheel vehicles were used during the sur- veys in order to get better coverage of the targeted area; however, the areas of sharp slops were not ac- cessible, and sometimes impossible, due to the rocks and absence of soil roads. For the inaccessible areas, the team has adopted walking-through method in order to reduce the gaps of the surveys, however,  Fig. 1. Iraq map, and sat images showing the location of Sindi Plain where the Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis  ptilorhynchus was observed   372 Eco. Env. & Cons. 25 (4) : 2019  this has consumed additional time. During birding the surveyed area, the team has used field binoculars of various values (12x35, 8x30, and 12x45), and different cameras with various telephotos attached (Canon with 50-500mm, Canon with 28-135mm, and Nikon with built-in 24- 2000mm), in addition to smaller cameras that were used in landscape photography. Garmin GPS unit was used to spot the locations of the surveys and the important observations and evidences.  The Observation of the First Oriental Honey Buzzard in Iraq  At the fourth day of the field surveys in different locations and habitats in Syndi plain, the 14 th of March 2018, the team was scanning the sky from time to time searching for the soaring and flying birds; one of the team members was able spot a soaring raptor that was thought to be the Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus based on the similarity and colours of the plumage. Based on the quite rapid observation that was due to the mistake in identifi- cation, no exceptional attention was made for this Pernis because Pernis apivorus is common buzzard that visits Kurdistan and the rest of the suitable ar- eas in Iraq in relatively considerable numbers dur- ing the migration seasons (Salim et al., 2012). The observed bird was passing through the area in east- west direction heading towards Zakho city direc- tion, then, the team continued surveying the middle parts of Syndi plain. The habitat were the bird was soaring over con- sists of undulated area of large hills with a network of valleys and watercourses. The hills’ sides were not so slope and some of them were used as a wheat farms that depends on the rain. Scattered individual Oak trees of which some of them were large trees and others are of medium height. The areas that were not agricultural and the rocky areas were with medium height shrubs and dense grass. There was high mountainous chain to the north of the area that separates the survey area and the upper mountain- ous areas that extends northward to the Iraq-Turk- ish borders (Fig.2). Before spotting this bird soaring in the sky over the above-described area, there was a couple of soaring Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus taking the same direction westward; however, this couple was soaring very high.  The Identification Of Oriental Honey Buzzard  A very important identification issue is the problem of hybridization between Oriental Honey Buzzard and European Honey Buzzard. The observed Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis  ptilorhynchus can be identified based on the follow- ing key characters and features that were very ap- parent in the Pernis that was found soaring in Syndi plain:  •   The broader wing and ‘hand’,  and the six prima- ries that clearly protruding from the training edge of the wing –   Pernis apivorus lacks to this feature;  •   The throat pattern, being pale patch surrounded by dark area –   Pernis apivorus lacks to this fea- ture;  •   The pattern of the tail that differs from the tail of  Pernis apivorus;  •   The boarder, dark tail, and the broad, white bar  Fig. 2. Left - The Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus soaring over the survey area. Right –  A Landscape view of Sindy plain where the Oriental Honey Buzzard was found. ©IOCN.   SALIM AND ALI ABED 373 in the middle of the tail;  •   The obvious and broad outer dark bar across remiges starting from the primaries all the way reaching the body; and These features are the key signs and variation in- dicators between Pernis and the most resembling bird species Pernis apivorus.   Acknowledgments  The authors would like to deeply acknowledge the Arab Regional Center for World Heritage (ARCWH), based in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, the Iraqi Organization for Conservation of Nature (IOCN), and the College of Science, University of Al-Qadisiyah for their continuous encouraging the scientific work on the biodiversity and providing the logistical support during the various surveys, including this one. The authors would also like to thank the genuine efforts of the people who have helped in these field works.  References  Babbington, J. and Campbell, O. 2016, Recent status and occurrence of Crested Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhynchus in the Arabian peninsula, with em- phasis on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emir- ates. Sandgrouse 38 (2016). Baha El Din, S. and Baha El Dinm M. 1997. Crested Honey Buzzard, a new species for Egypt and the African Continent. African Bird Club Bull. 4: 31. BirdLife International, 2016. Pernis ptilorhynchus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T22694995A93483912. IUCN.UK.2016 3.RLTS.T22694995A93483912.en . Eriksen, J. and Victor, R. 2013. Oman Bird List, Edition 7. Center for Environmental Studies and Research, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat. Eriksen, J., Sargeant, D. E. and Victor, R. 2003. Oman Bird List. Sixth edn. Muscat: Centre for Environmental Studies and Research, Sultan Qaboos University. Faveyts, W., Valkenburg, M. and Granit, B. 2011. Crested Honey Buzzard: identification, western occurrence and hybridisation with European Honey Buzzard. Dutch Birding . 33 : 149 – 162. Pope M and Al-Sirhan A in literature. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. 2001. Raptors of the World. London, UK: Christopher Helm. IUCN, 2008. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2008, Pernis ptilorhynchus , Oriental Honey-buzzard, ISSN 2307-8235. Mark Duquet & Colin Richardson, 2000, First and Second Record of Crested Honey Buzard xx in Iran. Sandgrouse, Vol 22(2). Mikolaj Koss, Noam Weiss, & Reuven Yousf, 2008. First Winter record of Crested Buzzard for Israel. Sandgrouse: Vol 30(2) 2008. Khaleghizadeh, A., Scott, D.A., Tohidifar, M., Musavi, S.B., Ghasemi, M., Sehhatisabet, M.E., Ashoori, A., Khani, A., Bakhtiari, P., Amini, H., Roselaar, C., Ayé, R., Ullman, M., Nezami, B. and Eskandari, F. 2011. Rare Birds in Iran 1980 – 2010. Podoces 6(1): 1 –  48. Morris, N.G. 2014. Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus: first record for Qatar. Sandgrouse 36 (2): 250 – 251. Porter, R.F. and Aspinall, S. 2010. Birds of the Middle East. 2nd edn. Christopher Helm, London. Richardson, C. (ed.) 2003. Emirates Bird Report No. 20. Dubai: Emirates Bird Records Committee. Salim, M.A., Al-Sheikhly of, Majeed, K.A. and Porter, R.E. 2012. An annotated checklist of the birds of Iraq. Sandgrouse 34: 4-43. Shirihai, H., Yosef, R., Alon, D., Kirwan, G. M. and Spaar, R. 2000. Raptor Migration in Israel and the Middle East: A Summary of 30 Years of Field Research. Eilat: International Birding & Research Center. 
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