Birds of South Yemen

Nabil 'Abd al-Latif 'Ubadi
al-Tuyur al-Yamaniya.
Namadhij min tuyur jumhuriya al-Yaman al-dimuqratiya al-sha'biya
Singapore: Kerjaya Printing Industries, 1989.

Reviewed by Daniel Martin Varisco

Yemen Update 33(1993):22

Ornithological enthusiasts have long been intrigued by the rich diversity of Yemen's birds. Several of the earlier Western travelers collected specimens, perhaps the most notable being the work of G. Wyman Bury. Bury visited both north and south, recording his adventures in 1911 (The Land of Uz,London) and 1915 (Arabia Infelix, or the Turks of Yemen,London). The birds collected by Bury were later studied by Sclaterin 1917 (Ibis, Series 10, Vol. 5, #2, 129-86.) There are a number of scattered reports available on Yemen's avifauna, especially due to work of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East and such observers as Richard Porter, Michael Rands, and Michael Jennings.

There is admittedly little information available on Yemeni birds in Arabic. Jamil al-Ba'dani published a small booklet on endangered bird species for the Ministry of Agriculture in the north. The major new contribution is an illustrated guide to the birds of South Yemen by Nabil 'Abd al-Latif'Ubadi. This is his: al-Tuyur al-Yamaniya. Namadhij min tuyurjumhuriya al-Yaman al-dimuqratiya al-sha'biya, published in Singapore in 1989. (The address of the publisher is Kerjaya Printing Industries, 122 Eunos Avenue 7, #02-11/12 Richfield Industrial Centre, Singapore 1440, and that of the author is Nabil 'Abd al-Latif'Ubadi, P.O.B. 916, Crater, Aden, Republic of Yemen). In some 194pages the author describes a little less than 200 bird species.

Each bird is identified by its general Arabic name, local Yemeni name, English term and scientific nomenclature. It is, however, hard to believe that there are so few Yemeni names for the birds cited. This surely speaks more to the author’s lack of information than a failure on the part of Yemenis to recognize different sorts of birds. A description of the bird is provided, along with a discussion of its natural habitat, diet and reproduction pattern. Each description is accompanied by a color photograph, although the reproduction quality of these is poor in most cases.

To give an idea of the type of information presented by 'Ubadi, it is best to translate an example. Let us take the case of the hoopoe (Upupa epops), called hudhud in Arabic. The author notes that it is called yubyub locally in Radfan. This term is heard in a number of Yemeni dialects, where there are recorded variants of yumyum and yudyud as well.

The description runs as follows: "It is convenient to distinguish the hoopoe by its vertical crest(qunzu'a) and its long curved beak. The upper parts are reddish brown in color, while the lower parts are whitish. The back, shoulders and wings are mixed black and white. The tail is black, but cutting across the width is a white band."

The natural habitat of the hoopoe is defined as "level fields and plains; thus agricultural plots on the terraces. It nests in garden areas (al-hada'iq wa-al-basatin), woodland and agricultural plots near villages." Its diet is said to consist of "insects and their larvae. For this reason it is counted as one of the beneficial birds with many benefits for agriculture. A number of international laws prohibit it's hunting or harming of its nests." The author goes on to explain: "The nest is placed in rotten trees or breaks in the upper parts of house walls (e.g., in Yafi'). The nest is of simple construction. The female deposits four white eggs."

Search Site

Search Library Collection