Bird Families

Socotran Sunbird / Chalcomitra balfouri

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Socotra is the name of an island and archipelago consisting of three inhabited islands (Socotra, Abd al-Kuri and Samha), one uninhabited island of Darsa and two rocks Sabunia (0.03 km²) and Kal Firaun (0.09 km²). The total area of ​​the Socotra archipelago is 3796 km². The main island of the archipelago - Socotra, has an area of ​​3625 km², the second largest island of Abd al-Kuri with an area of ​​133 km². Much smaller than Samha Island, with an area of ​​41 km² and Darsa - about 5 km², which are collectively known as "Al-Ikhwan", which translates as "Brothers".

Socotra is located off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean, south of the Arabian Peninsula, at a distance of about 350 km. Administratively, the archipelago is part of the Republic of Yemen.

Socotra is not the remains of a volcano, it is an archipelago of continental origin, and one of the most isolated in the world. It is believed to have split from Africa about 6 million years ago in the Middle Pliocene. On the main island of the archipelago, three geographical zones are distinguished: narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau with many karst caves, and Mount Hagier, 1525 m high.The Socotra archipelago is mainly composed of crystalline rocks, and the climate here is desert-tropical, which determines the composition of its flora and fauna.

During the winter months, the archipelago is characterized by light rainfall, which is more abundant inside the island in the mountains than on the coastal plains. The monsoon season is characterized by strong winds and high waves rolling on the shores of the archipelago.

Quite long-term, both geological and biological isolation of Socotra Island, as well as rather harsh climate features, when intense heat and drought alternate with hurricane seasonal monsoons from May to September, along with noticeable climate softening in the winter months, and special climatic conditions in mountainous regions islands, formed here a rather unique flora and fauna, a characteristic feature of which is a high degree of endemism. This is what served as the basis for the inclusion of Socotra in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Currently, the main threat to the original and unique nature of Socotra is represented by invasive species, including the anthropogenic impact associated with farm animals, as well as the noticeable climate change in recent decades. Currently, the flora of Socotra numbers 825 plant species, with the share of endemic species in the archipelago being 37%.

The result of the first British research expedition, conducted in 1880 under the leadership of Professor Isaac Balfour, was the description of more than two hundred new plant species for science, some of which were attributed to twenty new genera.

Dracaena cinnabar red, or the Socotra dragon tree (Dracaena cinnabari) is the symbol of Socotra. It is one of the most famous endemic plants of the archipelago and has the appearance of a mushroom with a green cap and a height of up to 10 meters. Its peculiarity is the sap of red color, which begins to flow out of the bark of this tree when it is cut. The blood-red juice flowing out of the wound quickly solidifies, forming a crimson gum. Locals have been using it since ancient times for medical, veterinary and cosmetic purposes.

Many species of aloe grow on Socotra, many of which have been used in medicine since ancient times. Another unusual endemic plant is Dorstenia gigas.

The islands are home to many birds, among which there are also several endemics. These are the Socotran long-tailed starling (Onychognathus frater), and the golden-winged finch (Rhynchostruthus socotranus), and the Socotran sparrow (Passer insularis), and the Socotran sunbird (Chalcomitra balfouri). On the islands of the archipelago, the Socotran vultures are often found. Of the aboriginal, non-introduced mammals on Socotra, one can note the Socotrian gezel (which the locals call tahrir), as well as the civet or musk cat. Local hunters take musk from the anal glands of wild musk cats, which can be bought here on the islands. Various bats are also numerous in the archipelago.

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