The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has conducted a survey across Abu Dhabi in 2023 to monitor the breeding populations of the Osprey – the largest in the Arabian Gulf region. Covering all coastal sites, in addition to the islands near the coast and the sea of Abu Dhabi, the survey to monitor Osprey breeding was the most comprehensive ever conducted in the UAE, with 127 breeding pairs recorded across more than 40 coastal and island locations.

To help maintain the stability and reproduction of the Osprey population, EAD cooperated with strategic partners to provide artificial nesting platforms at certain sites and on islands connected to the mainland to protect them from predation and human interventions. The nesting platforms provided suitable and safe options for birds to build new nests.

Ahmed Al Hashemi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said: “The agency has taken measures to monitor and protect this important species, including providing artificial nesting platforms that have been placed in more than 25 locations. These have proven to be a very effective tool in providing breeding opportunities. We are taking actions as outlined in the action plan for the species which has been classified as Endangered (EN) in the Abu Dhabi Red List of Species.

“The comprehensive survey and regular monitoring of the breeding population will provide the agency with the information on the Osprey to assess trends in numbers and enhance efforts to protect and preserve the birds. Fifty-six percent of the Osprey nests are present in EAD's marine nature reserves, which enhances the agency's role in protecting and preserving the environment.

The Western Osprey, known locally as Dammi, is a breeding bird species native to the UAE. It feeds exclusively on fish and is widespread in marine habitats only, with very few nesting inland. Ospreys breed in the UAE from December to March, and usually nest on the ground in huge nests made up of dry vegetation surrounding the nesting site. Each breeding pair builds one or more large nests using the dry twigs found on these islands. Nests are also built on rocky outcrop, abandoned structures, or any raised platform large enough to accommodate them. They can nest on very high structures as one of the highest nests was recorded at a height of about 60 metres on a communications tower. The survey revealed an unusual observation, as the nest of the Osprey was built in a tree - uncharacteristic behaviour as this species prefers to nest on the ground.

Ospreys typically select a single nest to breed, which they may consistently reuse every year. The Osprey feeds only on fish, which is why it prefers to nest in coastal areas, close to an abundant supply of fish.

The Osprey is protected under Federal Law No. 24/1999 which prohibits hunting, killing or capturing these birds, collecting their eggs or hatchlings, or causing damage to their breeding sites. The agency is committed to monitoring and enforcing protection measures to ensure the preservation of this important bird species and its natural habitats.

Osprey is considered a good indicator of the health and quality of the marine ecosystems. The species is included within the Action Plan to conserve migratory birds of Prey under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptor MoU). The agency works closely to conserve this species at a global level in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species and hosted and supported the CMS Abu Dhabi Office since 2009 which implements programmes and activities for Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia under the Raptor MoU.