Captain Kate, a Marine Pilot and Birder has written a nice synopsis of her birding experiences in Iraq (this is her third tour). She has had some great species that I haven't heard of anyone else seeing yet. These include Greater Flamingo and the regional endemic Grey Hypocolius. I've added a few links in her text to pictures.
The first time I was in Iraq for OIF I (Jan-Jul '03), we were stationed in the southern portion of the country. While there I noticed a number of different birds, but did not have access to a field guide of any sort with which to identify them. The only species I could positively identify was the flock of flamingos (presumably greater) that I flew over on a flight to Najaf (I'm a CH-53E pilot). For the rest of the deployment, I tried to capture as many other birds as I could on video. I saw a ton of these little yellow sparrow-sized birds, an odd pair of bright green birds that seemed to be nesting on or in a dirt mound, and this odd bird that had this distinctive call that would end in this dramatic crescendo where he would fly straight up in the air and fall back down as his call descended as well. Any ideas as to what those birds may have been would be extremely appreciated. I would have had a chance to identify them by video, but unfortunately my camera was subsequently destroyed in a helicopter crash. Following my return to the U. S., my parents bought me the (apparently) only book on the subject of Iraqi birds; Field Guide to Birds of the Middle East by R. F. Porter, S. Christensen, and P. Schiermacker-Hansen, first published in 1996 by T&AD Poyser Ltd. The origin of the book itself seems a little sketchy as a Princeton University Press sticker was pasted over the T&AD Poyser Ltd. stamp on the back. And now, it seems Princeton Field Guides has re-published the book as of 2004. Either way, it has proven to be invaluable, although I am sure that the information is in serious need of an update now that the country of Iraq is more accessible.
I'm currently on my third tour in Iraq and stationed at [A base in Al Anbar Province] (for the second time in a year). When I arrived here in February of 2004, I was armed with my new field guide and some binoculars, ready to identify as many birds as I could. At first I thought it was rather an unfortunate spot in which to be situated as the base has very little water in the immediate vicinity. It does have an oasis on base as well as a date palm grove and a seasonally marshy area. Other than that, however, it is bare earth with occasional pomegranate, olive, apricot and other trees found near the buildings. My first few trips walking around the base presented mostly rock doves, woodpigeons, collared doves and house sparrows. It seemed to be pretty banal stuff. However, as time went on (and as we headed through the mating season), I began to notice more and more species. Soon I was identifying a new species every few days.
On the 30-minute walk from the barracks to the workspaces, I logged a number of birds which turned out to be quite common on the base; white-cheeked bulbuls, crested larks, spanish sparrows, black-billed magpies, common ravens, common babblers and hooded crows (mesopotamian??). Forays off the beaten path led me to a common stonechat, a white wagtail, a plain leaf warbler, and a number of species in the shrike family; great grey shrike (aucheri), masked shrike, and red-backed shrike. I also spotted a pair of grey hypocolius and was able to snag a couple of pictures of the pair in flight. The entomologist on base told me he had seen a kingfisher of some sort at the oasis, so we trekked on over to see if we could catch a glimpse. After numerous trips and hours of staring at the water and surrounding reeds, I still had not seen the kingfisher. However I did log a woodchat shrike, numerous barn and red-rumped swallows, a veritable swarm of common swifts, and a common buzzard. The oasis was my only source for waterfowl, and I spotted a little bittern, a moorhen and a pair of red-wattled plovers (lapwings) with their distinctive -- if not extremely annoying -- voice.
I continued to study my guidebook with hopes of identifying new species more easily. One species in particular kept jumping off the page at me -- the hoopoe. I thought it was just the most striking bird and hoped I would be lucky enough to spot one. I was rewarded in April of 2004 with a short glimpse as a gorgeous hoopoe flew right past me and into our courtyard. By the time I could grab my binoculars, he was gone, but there was no mistaking him for any other species. That was the only time I saw a hoopoe in 2004, but I had another sighting just a couple of weeks ago.
I hit a lull in April 2004, but toward the end was lucky enough to see a couple of flocks of blue-cheeked bee-eaters passing through the area. It was shortly after this that I spotted a little owl who had taken up residence in a junkyard on base. I also began to see (but mostly hear) the see-see partridges on a regular basis. Their call is unmistakable. I also noticed a red-tailed wheatear that had taken up residence near our workspaces. During one flight into western Iraq, I nearly ended the life of a common kestrel who thought it would take on my helicopter one-on-one.
Returning to [The base in Al-Anbar] in early March of this year, I had little hopes of logging any new species. I thought I had pretty much exhausted my resources. Luckily, I was wrong and caught a little egret flying toward the marsh as well as a graceful prinia flitting about in the brush near our barracks. I've also noticed a black-eared wheatear that seems to favor the grassy area in front of our barracks. My favorite so far, however, has to be the egyptian nightjar that scared the daylights out of me when I flushed it from about a foot in front of me as I was walking home from work the other day. It only flew a short distance and I was able to sneak close enough to identify it. Luckily it happened to be the only species of nightjar that doesn't have the customary white patch on the wings, so it was easily identified.
Hopefully, the next six months promise more species to add to my list, but I think I may have to get stationed on another base before I can add too many more. I'll keep updating my list as it grows, though.