HTML Document Birds

Release date 26/12/2007
Geographical coverage Morocco
Keywords Birds, endemic, Endangered species, introduced and invasive

The geographic situation of our country and the diversity of its habitats explains the wealth of our avifauna, as much for sedentary species as for the migrating species for whom our country consitutes a very important route of passage or a destination during the migrations between Europe and Africa. The national avifauna is of 334 species more or less regularly visible in the course of a yearly cycle, divided over 17 Orders all belonging, since the disappearing of the Ostrich from our Saharan territories, to the only Section of Carinates.  Table 19 gives an inventory of these species and their status; neither the extinct species, accidental species, nor the few species raised and released into nature for hunting (such as the Colchide Pheasant) are here not taken into consideration.

Among our avifauna, the Order numerically most well represented is that of the ‘Passereaux’, which represents to it alone more than 40% of the total of species. It pertains of terrestral, singing species linked to the vegetation of forests, parks, ‘roses areas’, fields and borders of water and oueds. The Order of Charadriiforms comes in second place with around 20% of the total number of species; these are the aquatic and pelagic birds, often linked to the presence of water (freshwater, briny or marine) and which move around in open areas. The other Orders colonize a large range of biotopes.

 

Next to this avifauna rather regularly present on our territory there are also some species accidentally observed, of which 131 have been reported until now, and whose presence can now be confirmed or validated by the study of reports transmitted to our National Commision of Homologazation?

Endangered species

Since the last decades, several species of Birds which have nested more or less regularly in our country have disappeared, following anthropic pressures and its direct or indirect consequences (cf. infra). Thus, at an undetermined date (last century ) the "Erismature" with white head Oxyura leucocephala has been extinct; then, the oricou Vulture Torgos tracheliotus, the monk Vulture Aegypius monachus, the Iberic imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti and the wild Guinea Fowl Numida meleagris. The last specie to have disappeared is the elegant Crane Anthropoides virgo, which nested in the high plateaus of the Middle Atlas until 1984. Two other species, nesting occasionally on the Bas Draa (Iriki water surface), the pink Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and the pilet Duck Anas acuta, disappeared towards 1970-75, following a drying out of this zone, due to the construction upstream of the El Mansour Eddahbi Dam. The ‘"Guifette" moustac Chlildonias hybrida, which was before frequent in the Gharb tide, has today become very rare following the destruction of its habitat (drainage and intense drying out). The Curlew with slender beak Numenius tenuirostris, a Siberian hibernator which used to be abundant, has become very rare, and is found at the Merja Zerga where it was last observed during winter of 1995-96.

Next to these species definitely disappeared from our country, numerous other ones are endangered, essentially represented by certain Anatides (Marmaronetta angustirostris, Netta rufina, aythya nyroca), certain diurnal Raptors (Milvus milvus, Melierax metabates, Aquila rapax, Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps fulvus, Falco eleonorae), and our four species of Bustards (Ardeotis arabs, Otis tarda, Otis tetrax and Chlamydotis undulata), all which have become quite rare in Africa. The Turnix of Andalousia Turnix sylvatica, which used to be abundant in uncultivated coastal zones, has practically disappeared, victim of the abusive hunt against it, since it is often confused with game birds (Quail of wheat or even gambra Partridge.)

One must emphasize that the problem does not lie in the absence of a national legislation in terms of the protection of animal and vegetable species but rather in the non-application of these. To this, one must ad the total absence of civic education concerning the respect of fauna and flora. Current mentalities inclined to perceive nature as an inexhaustible reservoir destined solely to satisfy the immediate needs of man. This is valid not only for local populations but also for a certain category of foreign tourists for whom touristic hunts have been recently develop. These hunters exceed the existant legislation, hunting sometimes even on forbidden days in rather rich zones which should be considered as reservations.  It is opportune to recall here the disasterous effects perpetuated each year on the houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata and other species by mid-eastern falconists, since this has occured in their countries of origin, in Tunisia and other countries... An altogether particular sensitivization of these “rich” hunters on the precariety of Moroccan fauna, and the research of their collaboration so as to ensure a satisfactory protection should be the number one priority of action.

Numerous coastal species, in particular the rarest, are endangered by a more ordinary tourism, especially the high attendance of beaches and even rocky zones which are today rendered accessible by small canoes and pleasure boats. It is the case of the ‘huppe’ Cormorant Phalacrocorax aristotelis, which has become extremely rare in Morocco, of the ‘cendre’ Puffin Calonectris diomedea and the Oceanite tempest Hydrobates pelagicus. In a certain measure, the morbid mania of certain foreign ornithologues coming to Morocco to “mark off” the “local specialties” also represent a danger for the most rare among them: thus, in certain key nesting zones of the bald Ibis Geronticus eremita, children have learned to throw rocks on the birds trying to feed so as to show them to the ornithologues, since they are monetarily recompensed.

Several species are menaced  by the pratice of nomadism and of pastoralism, such as certain great Raptors and the Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps fulvus), the Bustards and certain species linked to humid zones, such as the Cap Owl (Asio capensis). The demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo has disappeared from our country (Middle Atlas), the shepherds and nomads having frequently gathered and eaten the eggs, thus striking out the species from its last quarters of African nesting!

Another danger, not least among them, is the regression of forestral surfaces (over-exploitation, inappropriate forestral treatments). Like species particularly affected: a whole series of Raptor species (Milvus milvus, Melierax metabates, Aquila rapax), the ‘Francolin a double eperon’ Francolinus bicalcaratus, a very rare species in Morocco and of which our country represents the only station of nesting in Palearctic zones, and the Andalousian Turnix Turnix sylvatica.

As in all Mediterranean regions undergoing the rhythm of the two humid and dry season, the dryout out of tides and the humid zones, very important in the north of the country (in particular the Gharb), has been especially accentuated in the course of the last fifteen years by a serious pluviometric deficit.  If many humid ones have naturally disappeared during these last years, many others are continually dried out for cultivation, causing the loss of habitats for aquatic species, such as certain Ardeides (Botaurus stellaris, Ixobrychus minutus, Ardea purpurea, Ardeola ralloides), Anatides (Anas strepera, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Netta rufina, Aythya nyroca, Aythya ferina), Rallides (Porzana pusilla, Porphyrio porphyrio, Rallus aquaticus) and ‘Syeriidés’ Acrocephalus spp. for example. Other species affected by this factor; the Cap Owl Asio capensis, of which the Moroccan relictual population represents the only bastion of this African or north Saharan species. The ‘Locustelle’ luscinioide Locustella luscinioide, the Lusciniole Acrocecphalus melanopogon and the ‘Bruant’ Emberiza schoeniclus find in humid zones of north-western Morocco one of the rare, if not the only, place of African nesting.

The abusive use of pesticides (including the anti-cricket battle), of which certain have been forbidden long ago in Euroep (dieldrine, parathion, Malathion), causes sterilization of Raptors by the secondary poisoning along trophic chains. The same danger weighs on the Bustards and ‘Francolin a double eperon’. Notwithstanding these extremely harmful effects, the strychnine is still often used by forestral agents to combat the enemies of livestock, which include foxes and jackals. The principal cause of the disappearance of these last population of nesting Vulture Gyps fulvus and Neophron percnopterus in particular, is associated directly to this product.

Endemic species of international importance

Morocco represents a capital interest for certain species with a world geographic distribution that is very small, either naturally or following a recent regression of their populations.

Thus, even if no species is naturally endemic to Morocco (this is not the case on the subspecific level for which the local Moroccan forms are numerous and sometimes highly differentiated from european populations of the same species), several other species present a naturally limited geographic repartition, including Morocco, where they can be observed as sedentary nesters, summer visitors, migrators and/or hibernators. The ‘Pic de Levaillant’ Picus vaillantii, the Atlas ‘Fauvette’, Sylvia deserticola and the Moussier Rubiette’ Phoenicurus moussieri, are endemic North Africans, more or less frequent in our country. The ‘Sirli of Dupon’ Chersophilus duponti and the ‘egoulevant a collier roux’ Caprimulgus ruficollis present an Ibero-Maghrebian repartition.

The Maghreb represents equally for some species the unique or at least rare zones of distribution in the Palearctic Occidental domain (North Africa, Europe, and Middle East). These species, which can be very endangered, rare or common, even very common, represent a major interest for foreign ornithologues who visit our country so as to observe them (economic role of eco-tourism). Among this category one can cite: ‘Elanion’ blanc Elanus caeruleus, the Barbarie Falcon Falco pelegrinoides, the ‘crecerellete’ Falcon Falco naumanni, the crete Falconn Fulico cristata, the ‘Martinet a croupion blanc’ Apus affinis, ‘Alouette of Cloet-Bey’Rhamphocorys clotbey, the paludicole Dove Riparia paludicola and the Bulbul of gardens Pycnonotus barbatus.

Among these species in regression on the world scale, a very rare bald Ibises Geronticus eremita seems to no longer nest, in the natural state, in our country.

The ‘Sarcelle marbree’ Marmoretta angustirostris is a species that is rare worldwide, with a very fregmented distribution (Asia, Africa, and Europe) and a high regression on the entirety of its area of distribution; it has come to be the object of a recent study by the International Bureau of Research on Water Birds and is on the list in Morocco is a protected species.

The Eleonore Falcon Falco eleonorae and the ‘Goeland d’Audouin’ Larus audouinii are very rare nesters, found mostly on small islands (Chaffarine Islands, Archipelago of Essaouira, Sidi Moussa north of Salé).

The royal ‘Milan’ Milvus milvus, of which a small relictual population survives still in the Rif and Middle Atlas, is a species that is rare throughout the world, limited to some countries only of the western Palearctic (Spain, Germany and France especially).

The houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata, victim of an abusive hunt by Middle Eastern falconners (cf. supra), has shrunken in its distribution like ‘peau de chagrin’ and is in dramatic regression in our country.

The unicolor ‘Martinet’ Apus unicolor is a migrator and/or a hibernator that is very rare. Normally an endemic nester of the Canary Islands and Madeira, it has just been discovered to be nesting on an Atlantic cliff in the region of Agadir.

The aquatic ‘Phragmite’ Acrocephalus paludicola, a species limited to the Occidental Palearctic (Russia, Poland, Hungary, Germany), and which has become very rare following a modification of its habitat (dryout out of tides and drainage), transists by Morocco, effectuating sometimes short halts of migration in favorable humid zones to rejoin its sub-Saharan winter quarters. It is the same for the ‘Rale de genets’ Crex crex of which the European population is in great regression.