Postcards from Tradocia

birds of war

Back in the day, I used to be quite the birdwatcher. Having commented on various birds in Iraq before, I thought I’d identify some of them. I got Birds of the Middle East, which was just published last year and apparently was the first book of its type. The book only has spotty information about what birds are actually in Iraq, but it’s better than nothing. And now, in another stunning coup of dorkiness, here’s my bird list for OIF III so far.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (not sure on this one because I didn’t get a good look and the range information for similar species is incomplete)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Coot Fulica atra
Spur-winged Plover Hoplopterus spinosus
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundu
Rock Dove Columba livia
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris (again, not sure)
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
White-cheeked Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix


  1. Mrs. Melobi

    Now what would be really dorky is to post URLs for photos of the birds. Like and

  2. Dallas Morris

    I see you are in Iraq and a birdwatcher.
    I’m just south of Mosul at an ASP, and am trying to ID some of the birds here.
    I’ve seen what looks like a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor), guessed at from the Iraq bird site:

    This black and white striped bird though has a crown, that has black/white stripe, I do not see this on any images of the Woodpeckers. Any Ideas? I have a few grainy photos I took today.

  3. Delobius

    It’s hard to tell from the book that I have (it has paintings, not photographs), but it seems that female Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have a black and white crown instead of the red crown of the males (much like Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers back in the US). Might this be what you’re seeing?

    Although this:

    looks like a female and there’s no stripe, just solid color. Hmm. This is a lot harder than birding at home. =o

  4. CBL413

    There is another book out there on Middle Eastern Birds (although it may be the same one).

    Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East by R. F. Porter, S. Christensen and P Schiermacker-Hansen, published in 1996.

    Again, paintings/drawings rather than pictures, and the range maps are breeding distribution rather than passage or winter distribution, but clues to locations during other parts of the year are given in the text.

    Currently on my third tour here, I have accrued a number of species, although I have been in the same place the whole time. Here’s my bird list so far:

    Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
    Little Bittern
    White-cheeked Bulbul
    Common Buzzard
    Hooded Crow
    Collared Dove
    Rock Dove
    Little Egret
    Grey Hypocolius
    Common Kestrel
    Crested Lark
    Black-billed Magpie
    Common Moorhen
    Egyptian Nightjar
    Little Owl
    See-see Partridge
    Rock Pigeon
    Red-wattled Plover
    Graceful Prinia
    Common Raven
    Great Grey Shrike
    Masked Shrike
    Red-backed Shrike
    Woodchat Shrike
    House Sparrow
    Spanish Sparrow
    Common Stonechat
    Barn Swallow
    Red-rumped Swallow
    Common Swift
    White Wagtail
    Plain Leaf Warbler
    Red-tailed Wheatear

    I haven’t had much luck with water birds or raptors, unfortunately.

  5. Dallas Morris

    Delobius and CBL413, I just received the book, Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East, today in the mail.
    I found my bird.
    It is a Hoopoe (Upupa Epops)!
    Thank you for your input.


  6. Jonathan

    As a fellow soldier I enjoy and appreciate your take on things. You’re a great writer. As a birder I can appreciate that side too.

    I posted a link to your site on my blog. I had a great time birding at both Liberty and Victory. I also took a walk down to Camp Slayer through the tunnel. I saw a pair of male black Francolins chasing eachother around in the scrubby area on the south side of Victory next to the road to Slayer Tunnel. Check it out if you can steal a vehicle to get down there.

    I’m planning on making Birding Babylon a group blog since I left Iraq in January and I’m not making any more firsthand sightings. If you are interested in sharing some more of your sightings please drop me an email.

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