United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

By Peter Petersen

The Sand Gazelle (Gazella marica) in the desert of Dubai.

 This male Arabian Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis cyanophrys) was hunting wasps and dwarf bee´s. 

 The female Arabian Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis cyanophrys) seems a bit smaller than the male with less brown coloration on the wings and the black stripe in the face does not reach as far back.

The Awl-headed Snake (Lytorhynchus diadema) is also called Common Leaf-nosed Snake. This species seems common in Fujairah.

I found this this Lime Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus demoleus) in the city of Dubai not far from central.

I observed this adult female Shikra (Accipiter badius) feeding on dragonflies. This small bird of prey seem to be common around Dubai.

This juvenile Shikra (Accipiter badius) was waiting for food in the trees around a palace.

The Schmidt's Fringe-fingered Lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti) is found all over the Arabian peninsula. The males can be very colorful. The dark areas can be bright red in adult males.

The Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) seems to feed mainly on insects.

The wingspan of the Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) is 80-85 cm.

The Arabian Sand Boa (Eryx jayakari) is an elusive animal. They are often hiding under the sand waiting for a prey to strangle.

The Common Hoopoe also called Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops) feeding on insect larvae.

The Spatulate-tailed Rock Gecko (Trachydactylus hajarensis) is only found in the Eastern part of the country. It lives in the mountains.

Only two species of cats are native to United Arab Emirates. This is one of them. It is known as the Asian wildcat (Felis lybica ornata), Arabian wildcat (Felis lybica lybica), and Gordon's wildcat (Felis silvestris gordoni). 

The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri krameri) has a total length of 40 cm. This parrot is common in Dubai. 

The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri krameri) seems to feed mainly on fruits, leafs, berries, seeds, and buds. This specimen was collecting nest materials.

The Persian Wonder Gecko also called the Arabian Wonder Gecko (Teratoscincus keyserlingii) formerly known as The Common Wonder Gecko or Large-scaled Gecko (Teratoscincus scincus) is native to the UAE.


 The Arabian Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus brevirostris) is an important pollinator for many local plants. This species mainly feed on nectar from flowers.

The Glossy-bellied Racer (Platyceps ventromaculatus) also called Hardwicke's Rat Snake is also believed to be native to this region.

The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis tristis) is omnivorous like other starlings. Perhaps the most common bird in Dubai.

This specimen of Carter's Rock Gecko (Pristurus carteri) is not feeling well. Normaly the stripes are much more visible and the base color is much lighter.

The Grey Francolin (Ortygornis pondicerianus mecranensis) can grow up to around 34 cm (males). 

The Red Dwarf Honey Bee (Apis florea) can be found all over Dubai.

Up close the Red Dwarf-Honey Bee (Apis florea) is actually a very attractive species. They are important pollinators here.

The Arabian Laughing Dove also called Arabian Palm Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis cambayensis) is native to east Arabia. 

The Eastern Skink (Scincus mitranus) is also called sandfish. This species dig into the sand and are difficult to get a good photo of. Notice the black stripes on the side of the body. 

A female House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in the middle of the city of Dubai. 

 The Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius) is the tallest of the three camel species. It can grow up to 2.4 meters (Males). weighing up to 700 kilos. 

 The Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis benghalensis) is native to East Arabia. It has a wingspan of up to 74 cm and a lenght of 34 cm. 

 The male Broad Scarlet Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea). This darter is a widespread species which occurs in Africa, Europe, Asia and Arabia.

The Broad Scarlet Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) here seems to feed mainly on bee´s and wasp´s.

The Arabian Horned Viper (Cerastes gasperettii) is found all over the Arabian peninsula. It is an ambush predator waiting in the sand for small mammals and lizards.

Although the Arabian Horned Viper (Cerastes gasperettii) is a common species in the United Arab Emirates, it is not common to see it.

The Arabian Horned Viper (Cerastes gasperettii) is venomous but not aggressive.

 Asian Pied Starling also called Indian pied myna (Gracupica contra) seems a bit more shy than other bird species in Dubai.

 The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) was extinct in the wild in the 1970s. It was reintroduced, thanks to private zoos and private reserves in the 1980´s.

The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is the first animal to move from Endangered to Vulnerable in IUCN Red List (in 2011).

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum showed me the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) in the wild near Dubai. We even found a calf. 

The Arabian Cicada (Platypleura arabica) was described from the United Arabian Emirates. The trees around Dubai are full of these.

 White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis) is one of the most common bird species around Dubai. Here it seems to feed mainly on fruit, buds and insects.

I have noticed that White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis) seems to breed all year around here. This one is collecting nest materials. This photo was taking a day in August where the temperature was 48 degrees C.

The Slender Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) is a widespread dragonfly species and is native to this region.

The Indian Silverbill (Euodice malabarica) is one of the smallest birds around Dubai. It grows to around 11 cm. 

An adult male of the Sinai Agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus) would have a blue head or be almost completely blue. This is a female.

 Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) seems a bit more shy than the common one. I often observed them higher in the trees. 

The Arabian Desert Shield Bug (Phyllocephala negus) is one of only 12 species of Shield bugs and Stink bugs (Pentatomidae) found in the United Arab Emirates. 

This Arabian Desert Shield Bug (Phyllocephala negus) was tipped over by the wind but was quickly back on its feet. 

The Arabian Desert Shield Bug (Phyllocephala negus) is the only fully black species of shield bug found here.

The critical endangered Macqueen's Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii) was extinct in the UAE but thanks to royal family and their breeding centers this species is once again present in the UAE.   

The Arabian Mud Wasp (Delta esuriens gracile) is a native Potter wasps also called mason wasps (Eumeninae).

The Arabian Paper Wasp (Polistes wattii) is the most common species of wasp in Dubai.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is a widespread bird species. It is native to this region as well.

 The Arabian Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida carpenteri). Originally described from Oman, this subspecies occurs in UAE as well.

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is one of the most common butterflies here. It´s a native species and it found in large numbers around Dubai City.

 The Giant Click Beetle (Lanelater buattikeri) is native to this region. This specimen is almost 3 cm long.

 The Giant Click Beetle (Lanelater buattikeri) seem to be most active in the early morning (During summer).

At night the Tropical House Cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) is an important prey for many animals of the desert. 

One of only two species of amphibians native to the United Arab Emirates. The Dhofar Toad (Duttaphrynus dhufarensis) is found only near the Al Hajar Mountains range.

The second species is the Arabian Toad (Sclerophrys arabica) can be found in the wadis of the same range. Some scientists believe that this species belong to the same genus (Duttaphrynus).

Both species of toads seems common in and around the riverbeds (Wadis) of the Eastern part of the country. Photo above is the Arabian Toad (Sclerophrys arabica).

The Arabian Cockroach (Supellina buxtoni) is native to this area. This species seems to be a relative rare find. No observations were registered in Inaturalist, before this observation.

I found this Arabian Cockroach (Supellina buxtoni) near a palace in Dubai.

The Groove-legged Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sulcatipes) seem to be a common insect in Dubai.

The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl (Bubo ascalaphus) is one of 6 species of owls present in the United Arab Emirates.

The Big-headed Lagoon Fly (Eristalinus megacephalus) seems to be an important pollinator in United Arab Emirates. 

 I found the Big-headed Lagoon Fly (Eristalinus megacephalus) in most of the native plants.

 East Arabian Mantis (Nilomantis floweri) found on a building in the middle of the night. This native mantis seems nocturnal.

 The Keeled Rock Gecko (Cyrtopodion scabrum) is also called: rough-tailed gecko, rough bent-toed gecko, rough-tailed bowfoot gecko, common tuberculate ground gecko.

 Heyden’s Gecko (Hemidactylus robustus) is another native nocturnal gecko.

The Northern House Gecko (Hemidactylus flaviviridis) is also called: yellow-belly gecko. I found this specimen on a building in a palace.

The Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus) is another nocturnal predator found here.

In Fujairah you can find some excellent places to snorkle. Here I found this Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). This species is Endangered but seems to be relatively common here.

The Khomeini Beetle (Maladera insanabilis) is a native beetle which reaches 9 mm. The grown beetle are active during the summer.


The Arabian Short-fingered Gecko (Trigonodactylus arabicus) is a small slender species that seems to feed mainly on crickets.


The Middle Eastern Short-fingered Gecko (Stenodactylus doriae) is another native ground dwelling species. I observed this species feeding on spiders.


The Middle Eastern Short-fingered Gecko (Stenodactylus doriae) eyes are bordered by large scales which protect them from the sand during burrowing. This is an adult.

This is a juvenile Middle Eastern Short-fingered Gecko (Stenodactylus doriae).

The Southern Tuberculated Gecko (Bunopus tuberculatus) is also called Baluch Rock Gecko. I found this specimen under a tree feeding on beetles.


A Cheesman's Gerbil (Gerbillus cheesmani) feeding on seeds and plant roots. Notice the large tick behind the ear.

Cheesman's Gerbil (Gerbillus cheesmani) seems to be quite common in the desert around Dubai, but this species does not seem to adapt well to the urban areas. I only found them far from the city.

Another native nocturnal mammal is the Desert Hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus). They feed mainly on insects and arachnids.


A common species here is the Arabian Desert Wolf Spider (Evippa sp.). This is a large specimen with a legspan of around 7-8 cm. Several species in the genus occur in the UAE. This could possibly be Evippa arenaria.


A front view of the Arabian Desert Wolf Spider (Evippa sp.). This species seems to feed mainly on other spiders and desert ants.

Scientists recently discovered that the black cobra present in the UAE is in fact the Eastern Black Desert Cobra (Walterinnesia morgani). Formerly known from Saudi Arabia (West) and Iran (North).

Another much smaller species found here is the Desert Sand Spider (Pterotricha dalmasi). This specimen has a legspan of around 2.5 cm.

One of the two native species of wild cats is the Sand Cat (Felis margarita).

The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is a nocturnal predator feeding on insects, rodents, birds, lizards, snakes and arachnids.


The Arabian Darkling Beetles (Pimelia arabica) feeds mainly on detritus and adults of the species are found year round unlike most other species in the genus.

The Arabian Darkling Beetle (Pimelia arabica) in a defense position. When threatered this species push its back up and seem larger.

The Oman Saw-scaled Viper (Echis omanensis) is nocturnal and feeds on gerbils and geckos.

The Oman Saw-scaled Viper (Echis omanensis) is a common predator here. It is venomous but it is not agressive.

Urchin Beetles (Prionotheca coronata) gets its name from the sea urchin. The body is covered in spines.

From above the Urchin Beetles (Prionotheca coronata) protection is much more visible. 

The Diadem Snake (Spalerosophis diadema) is a widespread species native to this region. It can be found fra Northern West Africa all the way to Parkistan and India in East.

I found this dead imago of the Seven-striped Beetle (Paraplatyope popovi). This species is an important food source for the endangered bird: Macqueen's Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii).

The Seven-striped Beetle (Paraplatyope popovi) seen from a rare angle. 

The Sochurek's saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus sochureki) seems common in the desert around Dubai city. The species is venomous but not aggressiv.

The Sochurek's saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus sochureki) seems to feed mainly on rodents, geckos and insects and they are nocturnal.

The Giant Desert Ant (Camponotus xerxes) is a common insect in the UAE and an important food item for many animals including gekko's, birds, arachnids and other insects.

This Giant Desert Ant (Camponotus xerxes) were watching me carefully but did not show any sign of aggression.

The Caspian Turtle (Mauremys caspica) is found in Saudi Arabia very close to the border of Abu Dhabi. This species has been observed a few times in the UAE but it is rare.

You would not expect to find native freshwater fish in this dry country. But a few streams, lakes and riverbeds (wadis) actually have freshwater and brackish native fish species. This is a young female Arabian Killifisk (Aphaniops stoliczkanus).

This is a adult male Arabian Killifish (Aphaniops stoliczkanus). The only killifish species native to United Arab Emirates. They are sometimes referred to as Arabian Pupfish.

Underwater footage of the; Arabian killifish (Aphaniops stoliczkanus) in a natural habitat, a freshwater stream affluent the brackish mangrove of Ras al-Khaimah. This species were for many years misidentified as the Red Sea Killifish (Aphanius dispar or Aphaniops dispar).

Another freshwater fish found here is the Hajar Lotak (Cyprinion muscatense). This cyprinid is found in Al Hajar Mountains (Stone Mountains) in the Eastern part of United Arab Emirates. Hajar is the mountain range in the Eastern Arabian peninsula. This species has formerly been known under these names: Cyprinion microphthalmum muscatensis and Cyprinion watsoni.

A sunset over Ras Al Khaimah

A white morph of the Western Reef-Heron (Egretta gularis) feeding on Arabian Killifish.

The dark morph of the Western Reef-Heron (Egretta gularis) on the same location in Ras Al Khaimah.

The Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) is a native dragonfly I found to be common around Dubai city.

The House Crow (Corvus splendens) is another native species doing well in the city.

One of the most common spiders in the UAE is the Arabian Spotted Orb-weaver (Neoscona subfusca).

This genus consists of more than 123 species. The Arabian Spotted Orb-weaver (Neoscona subfusca) can be confused with Neoscona theisi formerly known as Neoscona sodom.

In Sharjah I observed this Arabian Brown Babbler (Argya squamiceps) feeding on insects and arachnids.

In the end of July I found this Desert Robber Fly (Aploclea sp.) Based on the time of year and location I suspect this could be Aploclea heteroclita. It was found not far from Al Ain.

The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is found all over the world and this species is also native to the UAE.

A Common Roman (Solpugidae or Daesiidae). The Camel spiders or Sun spiders are difficult to identify and several species are found in the UAE. I only rarely come across them.

The Moila Snake (Malpolon moilensis) is also native to this region. This species is sometimes referred to as the false cobra and formerly known as Rhagerhis moilensis.

The headshape and scales of the Moila Snake (Malpolon moilensis) are made for a life in the desert. Notice the protective scales over the eyes.

Another group which are difficult to identify is the Burrowing Bugs (Cydnidae). This could be Amaurocoris curtus.

The Rack Beetle  (Tentyrina palmeri) seen from above.

The Rack Beetle (Tentyrina palmeri) belly up. This species defense is playing dead. So after touching the specimen it was easy to turn around. After a couple of minutes it turned around again and walked away.

This is most likely the Desert Wolf Spider (Hogna effera) often identified as the Radiated Wolf Spider (Hogna radiata).

One of the fastest snakes of the UAE is the Forskal Sand Snake (Psammophis schokari).

On the right a Nomisia Ground Spider (Nomisia species) and on the left a species of Formicine Ants (Formicinae). 

The ant turned out to be a Sahara Ant (Cataglyphis sp.) possibly Cataglyphis arenaria.

The Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is a common bird of prey here. I have observed this species feeding on  insects, small birds, and reptiles.

The United Arab Emirates is the most Eastern part of the Nocturnal Splendid Grasshopper (Heteracris annulosa) natural distribution range.  

Jan’s Cliff Racer (Platyceps rhodorachis) seems to feed mainly on rodents, lizards and insects.

Sunset in Sharjah


A special thanks to: 

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum (Bovidae and Camelidae)

Alireza Zamani (Arachnida)

Jörg Freyhof (Cyprinidae)




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