Two long, elevated inshore Gulf islands (Abu Ali and Batinah) north-east of Jubail, linked to each other and to the mainland by causeways. They consist largely of sabkhah and sandsheets, the latter becoming very well-vegetated with grasses and herbs after winter rains. The exposed northern shores are mainly sand beach with fringing reefs in places, while on the sheltered south side there are intertidal flats of sand and sand-mud, bordered by large saltmarshes. A shallow, brackish pond is present near the eastern tip and there are several smaller islands in the enclosed southern bay. There are oil installations and small traditional fishing camps, and the site is used for weekend recreation.
See box for key species. Vast numbers of Sterna saundersi/S. albifrons congregate to moult after the breeding season, as do large numbers of other tern species (see box). Breeding birds include Charadrius alexandrinus, Alaemon alaudipes, Calandrella rufescens and possibly Pandion haliaetus. Other wintering species include Larus genei (1,267). Numerous migrating passerines use the site as a stop-over in spring, and good numbers are present in winter.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site is proposed as a Resource Use Reserve in the NCWCD System Plan for Protected Areas, and establishment is proceeding. At present large areas are fenced and protected as a military area, and access to the whole site is strictly controlled; the consequent lack of grazing greatly benefits the vegetation. The configuration of the coastline renders the site particularly vulnerable to major oil spills in the northern Gulf, and the eastern tip of the islands is increasingly used by the oil industry. The proximity of the expanding Jubail Industrial City may increase disturbance from recreational activities in the near future.
Data-sheet compiled by P. Symens and A. Suhaibani.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Abu Ali. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 02/12/2022.