I found an Allen’s Gallinule (Porphyrio alleni) at Tahaddart estuary, just south of Tangier, on 16 January 2011. Unfortunately it was dead.
That day, I joined a team from the Scientific Institute of Mohammed V University to participate in the annual mid-winter waterbird census in different wetlands of north-west Morocco.
Before meeting the Rabat team, I was scanning the area west of the radio station when I noticed a dead bird by the road. Initially, the observation didn’t surprise me because I thought I was looking at a dead juvenile Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio). Also because I kept in mind that Porphyrio is of tropical ‘origin’ or ‘affinity’ and breeding year-round is to be expected (although this is generally not the case in our region). Nevertheless, I didn’t resist taking some quick pictures, which I didn’t regret later.
Difficult ID and BirdForum help:
At home, I found out that the photos didn’t match exactly those of juveniles Purple Swamphen, but there wasn’t any alternative in the Bird Guide. The possibility of Allen’s Gallinule didn’t cross my mind at all. Fortunately, I asked about “the age of the juvenile Purple Swamphen” in BirdForum.net, and only then some members kindly identified the bird as a first-winter Allen’s Gallinule.
This unfortunate bird would be the 7th record for Morocco and the 1st one for the Tangier Peninsula. The first five records for Morocco were compiled in The Birds of Morocco (Thévenot et al. 2003) and all were observed between Merja Zerga and Oued Massa. While the most recent record (6th) was observed at Melilla in the eastern Mediterranean coast in November 2008 by Diego Jerez Abad and his colleagues (see the second photo).
Beside the dead Allen’s Gallinule, the birding/counting was good with many ducks, waders and wonderful flocks of Common Crane (Grus grus).