Protecting the Asir Magpie

Promoting biodiversity

Aramco is on mission is save Saudi Arabia's only endemic bird species, the highly-endangered Asir magpie, whose estimated numbers have dwindled to just 100 breeding pairs.

Asir magpie on tree
Very little is known about what the Asir magpie eats, its breeding patterns, how far it moves or its family group composition. 

A striking mid-sized bird, the Asir magpie is renowned for its high intelligence and is known locally as the “Ack-Ack” — a name reflective of the species' charismatic calls. Little is known about what the Asir magpie eats, its breeding patterns, how far it travels, or the composition of its family group. Key to the bird's conservation is finding out this missing information.

In 2018, our research indicated that only 80 km2 of prime quality habitat remained for the birds. This habitat was fragmented into 11 separate patches, meaning the Asir magpie was likely to be suffering from genetic problems. Active protection was needed to save the species. The resulting Asir magpie research project was the first joint In-Kingdom initiative between the Saudi Wildlife Authority, the Smithsonian Institution, and Aramco.

The project commenced with a 12-month research study to estimate magpie population size, density, habitat use, and distribution. This was followed by the capture and immediate release of 12 Asir magpies.

The basic measurements taken of the 12 captured birds are the first known scientific notes on the species. Each of the magpies was tagged with a state-of-the-art tracking system — the first step towards understanding where the Asir magpie lives and travels.

Asir magpie measurement
Measurements were taken of 12 captured and released Asir magpies. 

Our research into the Asir magpie continues today, ensuring the world recognizes the importance of the Asir mountains for biodiversity conservation, while protecting one of our most threatened species.