Moroccan Birds

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birding Dakhla Bay and Aousserd road

Robert (Bob) Swann has just returned from a birding trip to Dakhla area with Daniel Mauras, Eric Alblas and Bill Bailey. On 28 January, they explored the Dakhla Bay with Mohamed Lamine Samlali of the Association Nature Initiative (ANI).

On the south side of the bay, they found a dark morph Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis). On the north side (near the oyster restaurant) they had an immature Razorbill (Alca torda). The latter species, being mainly a winter visitor to northern coasts and rarely reach southern Morocco, 
is a real rarity at this latitude.

Along the Aousserd Road there were good numbers of breeding Dunn's Larks (Eremalauda dunni) and Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks (Eremopterix nigriceps). 

In late autumn 2015, a team led by the Association Nature Initiative and other Moroccan researchers observed several Saharan birds in full breeding season (nests, eggs and recently fledged juveniles). 

A trip report will be published here when available from the birders.

Razorbill - Pingouin torda (Alca torda), Dakhla Bay, 28 January 2016 (Daniel Mauras)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus vetula) at Anza, Agadir

An adult Kelp Gull or Cape Gull (Larus dominicanus vetula) found and photographed today (25 January) at the fish factory of Anza near Agadir by Arie Ouwerkerk and Jacob Jan de Vries.

Normally, the Kelp Gull is expected at Khniffiss lagoon and the coast to the south, but they do occur north of Khnifiss as well. 

Anza proves rewarding not only for the large numbers of gulls (including many of the colour-ringed birds) but also for rarities such this one.

Cape Gull (Larus dominicanus vetula), Anza near Agadir, 25 January 2016. (Jacob Jan de Vries via facebook).

Arie Ouwerkerk posted another photograph of the bird at PBase.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Satellite-tagged Aquila adalberti at Guelmim, Morocco

A Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) with a satellite transmitter on its back photographed by Rachid El Khamlichi a few days ago in the region of Guelmim, southern Morocco. The bird observed also by Daniel Buron, Alfonso Godino, Catarina Machado and Jose Rafael Garrido who visited together the region. It’s probably one of the Spanish Imperial Eagles tracked by GPS-GSM transmitters from Andalusia (Spain) in 2015 and most of them crossed to Morocco. If indeed was one of these Andalusian eagles (because there are other birds tracked in other regions such as in Castilla–La Mancha), then it spent so far a good amount of time in Morocco. 

In November 2015, Ali Irizi photographed (and videoed) an untagged Spanish Imperial Eagle in the same region.

Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) with a satellite transmitter on its back, Guelmim region, Morocco, January 2016 (Rachid El Khamlichi) 

Aigle ibérique avec une balise satellitaire à Guelmim

Un Aigle ibérique (Aquila adalberti) avec un émetteur satellitaire sur son dos a été photographié il y'a quelques jours dans la région de Guelmim par Rachid El Khamlichi.

En novembre 2015, Ali Irizi a photographié (et filmé) un Aigle ibérique (non balisé) dans la même région de sud du Maroc.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Swedish Peregrine Falcon captured and then released at Casablanca

A 3-year old male Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) ringed in Sweden was captured in south of Casablanca on 18 December 2015. It was released after negotiations. The information has been transmitted to the Swedish Bird Ringing Centre.
Faucon Pèlerin (Falco peregrinus) origine suédoise mâle de 3 ans capturé le 18/12/2015 au sud de Casablanca. Remis en liberté après négociations... Les infos ont été transmises au Swedish Bird Ringing Centre.
Karim Rousselon


Karim got the following response from Sweden: 
The Peregrine male CX was born in captivity in 2012 and released (by hacking technique) the same summer on a water tower in the town Västerås (100 km west Stockholm) at the age of 35 days. 
The following year (2013) he returned and seemed to set up territory in the city. He often perched on the tower of the local cathedral (= the tallest building in town).

Next year -2014 - he attracted a (1 year old) female. They tried to breed in a nest box we put up on another tall building in the harbour area but they failed. Maybe the female was too young.

In 2015, they both returned but a 2nd female appeared and took the place of the young lady. She and the male CX successfully reared 3 young. This was the first breeding of Peregrine falcon in central Sweden for 60 years. The female is spending the winter on the breeding site, I see her most days.

It is very interesting for us to hear the news about CX from you.

To learn more about the introduction project of the Peregrine Falcons in Västerås, central Sweden, see these articles (in Swedish but easily understood with translation):

Poaching (killing and taking of birds and other protected animals) in Morocco:

While the situation is not as bad as in some eastern Mediterranean countries, poaching still exist in Morocco as well. A few example mentioned in this blog before:

- Eurasian Spoonbill ringed in The Netherlands killed at Kenitra by a hunter

- Hunters killed a Griffon Vulture in Beni Mellal region

- Griffon Vulture killed by a hunter in the Strait of Gibraltar area

- Hunters killed endangered Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in the Rif Mountains

- Hunters killed a common genet (Genetta genetta) in the Rif Mountains

Peregrine Falcon CX from Sweden after it was rescued from the poachers, Casablanca, Morocco (Karim Rousselon)
Male Swedish Peregrine Falcon CX after it was rescued from the poachers, Casablanca, Morocco (Karim Rousselon)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis) encore à Essaouira

The Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) photographed at the wetland of Essaouira by Naima Mars on 20 and 30 December 2015 is still there. Brahim Bakass visited the site today and took the following photos:

Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 4 January 2015 (Brahim Bakass)
Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 4 January 2015 (Brahim Bakass)
Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 4 January 2015 (Brahim Bakass)
Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 4 January 2015 (Brahim Bakass)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Evaluation de sexe-ratio de Fuligule milouin: demande de l'aide en Afrique du Nord

Demande de l'aide pour déterminer le sexe-ratio de Fuligule milouin (Aythya ferina):

"Le statut de conservation du Fuligule milouin inquiète de plus en plus, et pour améliorer nos connaissances relatives à la structure des populations de milouins, Duck Specialist Group de l'UICN (DSG) et le Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) organisent une évaluation du sexe-ratio de l’espèce. En janvier 2016 nous sollicitons la participation des ornithologues et des compteurs d'oiseaux d'eau en Europe et en Afrique du Nord pour collecter des données de sexe-ratio de Fuligule milouin. Nous demandons simplement aux observateurs de noter le nombre de mâles et de femelles dans les groupes d'oiseaux. Ceci peut être fait durant le prochain recensement international des oiseaux d'eau (16/17 janvier 2016), ou durant une autre sortie spécifique en janvier 2016. Les données de sexe-ratio de milouin notées de manière ponctuelle par les ornithologues sont également les bienvenues. La carte d'information ci-dessus montre les informations à collecter et comment les soumettre. Pour plus d’information voir ce PDF (en français). Merci beaucoup".

Kane Brides
Email : Kane.Brides AT, Siteweb:

Common Pochard sex ratio assessment, request for help:

"On behalf of the IUCN's Duck Specialist Group (DSG) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) I'm organising a sex ratio assessment of Common Pochard during January 2016. There is growing concern over the conservation status of Pochard and we're interested in looking into the population structure of this species. During January 2016 we are seeking participation from waterbird counters and bird watchers across Europe and North Africa to help collect sex ratio data for Common Pochard. We are asking counters to simply record the number of males and females in flocks. This can be carried out as part of the next International Waterbird Census (16th/17th January 2016) or, if preferable, during a separate visit some other time in January 2016. The information card below which tells birders what information to collect and where to submit any counts. For more information please see visit the DSG website. Many thanks".

Kane Brides
Email: Kane.Brides AT, Website:

Evaluation de sexe-ratio du Fuligule milouin 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rare birds in Morocco: 21st report of the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee

The report of the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee (MRBC) for the year 2015 has just been published. During that period, the MRBC examined 124 new records of which 112 were accepted.

The report included the first Moroccan records of three species:

  • Golden Nightjar (Caprimulgus eximius), it's also the first documented record for the Western Palearctic. Seen on the famous Dakhla-Aousserd road in May 2015, unfortunately the bird hit the observers' car and died.
There is also the 2nd record of Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), and the first record of Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) on the Mediterranean coast (it's the 8th record for Morocco).

The report included also new records of Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni), Pied Crow (Corvus albus), Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola), Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates), Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis), Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Allen's Gallinule (Porphyrio alleni), Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis), Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), and a number of other species.

It included also new records of the invasive species, Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) which started to colonise two new cities (Tangier and Marrakech). Also several records of Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) mainly from or near Jbel Moussa, and of Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) mainly from eastern Morocco but also from other regions.

Read the full report:

Fareh, M., Franchimont, J., Maire, B. & CHM. 2016. Les oiseaux rares au Maroc. Rapport de la Commission d’Homologation Marocaine Numéro 21 (2015). Go-South Bulletin 13: 18-35. PDF


For the Allen's Gallinule, there was an error in the report for the date of the second observation: the juvenile bird first found and photographed by Ali Irizi at Oued Massa on 28 December 2014. Three days later, Daniel Vrauwdeunt found by chance a juvenile Allen's Gallinule not far from the site of the first observation (it was most likely the same bird based on the photos, the dates and the same site) . 

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus), Kenitra, 15 November 2014 (Thomas S. Lahlafi)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) at Essaouira: second for Morocco

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) photographed yesterday (20 December) at Essaouira by Naima Mars. This is the second observation for Morocco. The bird photographed at Oualidia lagoon in June 2014 was the first record for Morocco and continental Africa. The bird seen again on 30 December. (photo 3)

Harelde boréale photographiée hier à Essaouira par Naima Mars. C’est est la deuxième observation pour le Maroc. L'oiseau photographié à la lagune d'Oualidia en juin 2014 était la première mention pour le Maroc et l'Afrique continentale. L'oiseau vu à nouveau le 30 décembre (photo 3)

Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 20 December 2015 (photo: Naima Mars) 
Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 20 December 2015 (photo: Naima Mars) 
Long-tailed Duck - Harelde boréale (Clangula hyemalis), Essaouira, 30 December 2015 (photo: Naima Mars) 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1000 Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) at Lower Loukkos in winter

Some 1000 Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) were observed at Lower Loukkos wetland by John Arnett and his colleague on 11 December 2015. Other interesting records on the same day include the observation of some 1000 Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta). John commented on these observations: "These flooded fields were absolutely full of little egrets, glossy ibis, and yellow wagtails. I've never seen anything like it.  There were probably more than 1,000 of each of the three species but we did not have time to count them all.  We did not take photos.  I'll also note that it looks like a new road is being built through the area, and perhaps could be a problem for the future of birds at this site."

Thanks to Pedro Fernandes for letting me know about these observations, which John had uploaded to eBird

According to the information available in ‘The Birds of Morocco’ (Thévenot et al. 2003), birds of the iberiae subspecies were recorded in winter in the main breeding sites since the 1960s. European birds of different subspecies were also recorded later at some sites. However, the birds involved in each observation were never numerous, with a maximum of about 500 birds seen at Lower Loukkos marches on 2 January 1996 (in Thévenot et al. 2013). 

I have seen Yellow Wagtails in relatively big numbers at Lower Loukkos marches over the last years. Each time I visit the site in winter, I see several groups of 20-30 birds each but never seen something bigger than 200 birds in a single day. Interestingly, we hardly see any Yellow Wagtails at Smir wetland outside the breeding season, a small population breeds at these marshes and I don’t remember seeing any bird in winter.

I think the observation of about 1000 birds recorded by John is the highest known number of this species to be recorded in winter in Morocco.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Saharan birds breeding in late autumn and other curiosities

Birding in the Sahara is more than excellent after rains, as I wrote in this blog before (I know I keep saying this, but I can't resist).

A large team composed by several researchers from different fields participated recently (late November 2015) in an expedition to the areas of Tirs and Adrar Soutouf (west and south-west of Aousserd respectively). The visit was in the framework of a project about the “Inventory of cultural and natural heritage of the Aousserd province”. The project was carried out by the Dakhla-based Association Nature Initiative in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Directorate of the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Regional Council of Aousserd and the Moroccan Association of Rock Art.

From the ornithological and birding point of view, the survey proved very productive and the ornithology team recorded the autumnal breeding of several Saharan birds. As observed before in autumn 2010, different bird species were in different phases of the breeding cycles (from courtships, egg-laying to feeding recently fledged juveniles). Among the curiosities, a White-crowned Wheatear found nesting in kitchen utensils (5 eggs in a dish used locally for camel milk, photo 7).

A detailed report about these observations should be published soon. In the meanwhile, you can enjoy the these photos, and you can also see the following readings about the subject of autumn/winter breeding of Saharan birds in the Aousserd region (and elsewhere - in other countries - in the case the Cream-coloured Courser):

- Nidifications automnales d'oiseaux sahariens dans la région d'Oued Ad-Dahab - Lagouira (Maroc méridional). Go-South Bulletin (PDF)

- Autumn-winter breeding by Cream-coloured Coursers Cursorius cursor is more common than previously reported. Wader Study Group Bulletin (PDF)

- Cricket Longtail breeding in southern Morocco. Dutch Birding (PDF)

Photo credits:
All photographs were taken by Abdeljebbar Qninba (Scientific Institute, University of Mohammed V) except 3 photos (adult Cream-coloured Cursor with juvenile, adult Hoopoe-Lark and the landscape with camels) were taken by Abdelaziz Benhoussa (Faculty of Sciences, University of Mohammed V).

Male Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
Juvenile Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
Desert Sparrow  (Passer simplex): female feeding juvenile
Male Desert Sparrow  (Passer simplex).
Adult Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursos) and its juvenile (Abdelaziz Benhoussa)
Cream-coloured Courser found itself in a lush vegetation 
Unusual nest of White-crowned Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga)
White-crowned Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga)
Juvenile Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes) (Abdelaziz Benhoussa)

Chicks of Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus
Lark nest
Nest of Desert Sparrow
African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) having a siesta in the shade
Camels and the green landscape of Aousserd, Oued Dahab, after rain (Abdelaziz Benhoussa)