Bird watching in Jordan

Jordan has a unique location, nestled at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula where the edges of three continents overlap: Asia, Africa and Europe. This makes it a migratory mecca.
In the same way that Jordan’s famous cultural heritage site of Petra segues seamlessly into the pink sandstone around it, so does its national bird: the Sinai rosefinch, which not only inhabits the Sinai Desert in great numbers but is also the most pretty pink colour. A rose bird for a Rose City; we like Jordan’s style.
We also like the amount of protection proffered to birds and their habitats in Jordan, and the headquarters of the organisation BirdLife International Middle East is in Amman, Jordanian capital. To get a quick flavour of their work, there is no better place for birders than Twitter, @birdlife_me, with Tweets a plenty.
Part of the role of BirdLife International Middle East is to shout about the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, many of which you will visit on a bird watching vacation in Jordan, guided by local birding experts. Their main partner on the ground is the Jordan Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which supports reserves and community involvement throughout the country, as well as advocating for the protection of biodiverse landscapes. There are, to date, 27 Important Bird Areas in Jordan.
Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve

1. Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve

One of the finest examples is the Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve which the RSCN has managed since 1989. At 300km2, it is the largest reserve in the country. It is also a controversial spot, because copper mining companies are desperate to get digging here, yet this region is a veritable fiesta of feathered friends, with 216 species of birds, many of which are globally threatened. That’s one big gathering, given that the country boasts 331 bird species in total. Between its mountainous plateaus that reach an elevation of 1,500m, to its low lying deserts of Wadi Dana and Wadi Araba, you will find tweeting treats such as Tristram’s starling, the Palestine sunbird and a wide variety of raptors, including Verreaux’s and Bonelli’s eagles. Come here in spring to hear the distinctive call of – and hopefully see – Hume’s owl echoing around the wadis.
It was quite moving to see the beautiful Palestinian sunbird, the national bird of Palestine, in Jordan. It was, literally, free as a bird.
RSCN Azraq Wetland Reserve

2. RSCN Azraq Wetland Reserve

Visitors can stay in the heart of Azraq Wetland Reserve, a unique oasis in the Arabian Desert, as the RSCN has built a lodge here which is a vital source of conservation funds to preserve this wetland in the desert; one that nearly dried out before the RSCN began a rescue mission in the 1990s. Rather aptly, the lodge is a converted 1940s British military field hospital; today it contributes towards a very different health mission. As you can imagine, this terrain is a beacon for migratory birds seeking their own oasis mid journey during autumn and early winter. This stop is as much about reproducing as it is about refreshing, however, with mating season in full flight, so to speak. So much for an oasis of calm, with a chance to see migratory species such as the Cetti's warbler, desert finch, marsh and Montagu’s harriers and the European honey buzzard. Let’s not forget Azraq’s important residents, however, which include the rufous-tailed scrub robin, hoopoe lark and white-eared bulbul.
Shaumari Wildlife Reserve

3. Shaumari Wildlife Reserve

The star of the Shaumari is not actually a bird, but an antelope – the Arabian oryx. The oryx’s reintroduction led to this reserve being protected in 1975, the first protected area in the country and a pioneer for many to follow. You can also spot as many as 80 bird species here with, not surprisingly, quite a few desert birds in this semi-arid terrain. These include Temmink’s lark, hoopoe lark and thick billed lark. All flitting in between the reserve’s mammals which, as well as the oryx, include the Persian onager, otherwise known as the Persian zebra, gazelles, striped hyenas and jackals. Swooping or soaring rather than flitting are the reserve’s Imperial eagle, pallid harrier and Egyptian vulture.
Dibeen & Ajloun Forest Reserves

4. Dibeen & Ajloun Forest Reserves

One doesn’t really associate Jordan with forests but these two reserves, both in northwestern Jordan are beautiful woodland retreats. Dibeen boasts one of the largest Aleppo pine habitats as well as Palestinian oak, olive trees and orchids, and Ajloun a rich green landscape of evergreen oak. Indeed, only one percent of the country has woodland, and yet these areas have their own micro, Mediterranean style climates and attract birds such as Sardinian warbler, great and blue tits, Eurasian jay, greenfinch and turtle dove. Note that the Eurasian jay is actually a Middle East subspecies which is has a black cap. In Dibeen you may even hear the Syrian woodpecker doing its thing, with at risk birds such as the greater spotted eagle and the siskin enjoying these cooler parts too.
Mujib Biosphere Reserve

5. Mujib Biosphere Reserve

If you visit between April and October you can hike the Mujib Wadi following a rather cooling water trail, taking care not to get your camera wet as you snap some of the 220 species enjoying time in this Biosphere Reserve. It’s a breeding ground for birds of prey such as Bonelli’s eagle and the rare lesser kestrel, and you will also see kestrels soaring, white storks posing and sparrowhawks preying. Smaller birds include wheatears, blackstarts and Tristram’s starling.
Aqaba Bird Observatory

6. Aqaba Bird Observatory

Aqaba is special in that it is Jordan’s only outlet into the Gulf of Aqaba which then leads into the Red Sea. It also has one special bird species in particular, the white-eyed gull, which is endemic to the Red Sea. As you can imagine, Aqaba has also become resort heaven for humans wanting to escape the desert heat, but this protected Observatory is a haven for migratory birds and you can see a map there showing their flight paths. Strangely enough, in most cases they fly overland not water, as flying over water takes more energy. And so by the time they get to Aqaba they are ready for a cold one. Be prepared for some unpleasant smells sometimes here, as the Observatory’s primary role was as a water treatment center which the birds soon spotted and squatted. Some of the treats in store include herons, egrets, greater flamingos, storks, pelicans, black winged stilts and Arabian babblers.
Wadi Rum Protected Area

7. Wadi Rum Protected Area

The Bedouin call it ‘Valley of the Moon’ and its razor-toothed mountains, wind-sculpted rocks and expansive plains do make it otherworldly. Wadi Rum describes southern Jordan’s entire desert, but the true, protected area makes up 720km2 and this is the part where you will get a chance to spot the Sinai rosefinch, hooded wheatear, trumpeter finch, sooty falcon and brown-necked raven. Many people enjoy a camel ride in Wadi Rum, so don’t forget your binoculars in the excitement of it all.

Our top Bird watching Vacation

Jordan bird watching tour

Jordan bird watching tour

Observe the migrant birds from the theater of nature

From US $2430 10 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Bird watching or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Best time to go

Best time to go bird watching in Jordan

March, September and October are the best months to see the migratory birds, but Jordan has so many of its own species you will always see something special on a bird watching vacation here, especially with so many Important Bird Areas. If you want to combine bird watching in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve with walking the Siq Trail when it is wet, then early April to the end of October is the time for water babies.
Bird watching vacations in Jordan tend to be small group tours, with expert guides, so departures are times to suit various breeding, nesting or migratory seasons. So do talk with the vacation company if there is a particular bird you want to see. March is a cooler time to visit Jordan generally, with desert temperatures still off the scale in September. Be prepared for a drop in temperature in night in many places, however.
Big days all round

Big days all round

One of the joys of birding in Jordan is that the birdlife has been kind enough to gather in spots that are never too far from the country’s magnificent cultural heritage sites. When visiting Azraq Wetland Reserve or Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, for example, you can combine it with a visit to the famous desert castles. Your birding expeditions to Dibeen or Ajloun Forest Reserves will almost definitely include a visit to Jerash, one of best preserved provincial Roman cities in the world, protected through time by sand. Enjoy the waters of Mujib Biospshere Reserve followed by those of the Dead Sea and, last but not least, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra is not too far from Dana Biosphere Reserve for a day of two beauties back to back. And if you are lucky to see a Sinai rosefinch at both, you will not be seeing life through rose tinted glasses. It will all be for real.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Oriaaaass] [Sinai rosefinch: Tino Strauss] [Bird: Why Jordan Tours] [tristram's starling: Oriaaaass] [Desert finch: Yusufyi] [Egyptian vulture: Kitty Terwolbeck] [Syrian woodpecker: Ron Knight] [lesser kestrel: Subramanya CK] [Black winged stilt: Ryzhkov Sergey] [Hooded wheatear: Opisska] [White stork: Akulatraxas] [Heron: Charles J Sharp] [Jerash: Antonio Campoy]