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Regular wintering of Dutch-ringed Spoonbills in northern Morocco

Two Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) have connected The Netherlands with their wintering areas in northern Morocco during several years.

The two Eurasian Spoonbills colour-ringed in The Netherlands wintering together at Oued Martil, northern Morocco, 1 November 2013.

These Spoonbills were ringed at two different Dutch islands and observed regularly wintering in the wetlands of northern Morocco during the autumns of 2011 and 2013 and again in 2015 and 2016.

Spoonbill 1

This bird (ring code: aG[A]/GO) was ringed as a nestling at Terschelling on 8 June 1993. It most likely spent its first winter at the lower Loukkos marches (Larache, Morocco), and it has been sighted at several places in Spain and France over the years. It was observed at the wetland of Oued Martil near Tétouan on 16 October 2011 (next 2 photos). Two years later, on 1 November 2013, it was observed again at the same site with another Dutch-ringed bird (photo at the top).

This Spoonbill found wintering again in the region on 24 January 2015. This time the faithful bird was observed at Oued el Maleh which is less than 5 Km north of Oued Martil.

All these wetlands function as one “feeding unit” for wintering birds as well as nesting birds such as Glossy Ibis breeding at the Smir heronry (during chick-rearing period we have observed the ibises fly back and forth several times between the breeding colony and the different feeding areas in the region of Tétouan). Said Lahrouz and Khalid Chikri were also with us during the last sighting.

Eurasian Spoonbill colour-ringed (aG[A]/GO) in The Netherlands, seen here at Oued Martil on 16 October 2011.
The same Eurasian Spoonbill as above (aG[A]/GO), 16 Oct 2011.

Spoonbill 2

This bird (ring code: BaB/BYfR) was ringed as a nesting at Schiermonnikoog on 23 May 2008. Outside The Netherlands, it was sighted in Spain and at Smir lagoon on 23 October 2011 (photo below).

Eurasian Spoonbill colour-ringed (BaB/BYfR) in The Netherlands, seen here at Smir lagoon on 23 Oct 2011.

On 1 November 2013, it was observed and photographed together with the Spoonbill 1 at the marches of Oued Martil (photo at the top).

The bird was observed again by one of us (Rachid) at Smir marches on 18 November 2016 (photo below).

Dutch-ringed Eurasian Spoonbill (BaB/BYfR) at Smir marches, 18 Nov 2016.

It seems that both these spoonbills and other birds like the wetlands of northern Morocco despite that these wetlands are currently under severe human pressure (organic pollution in parts of Oued Martil and the “development”at Smir wetland). It’s most likely that Spoonbill 2 (BaB/BYfR) has switched its wintering site from Smir lagoon to Oued Martil marches due to the destruction of the lagoon by these “development” and increasing disturbance in the remaining of Smir marches.


Spoonbill 1 was ringed by Harrie Horn, while Spoonbill 2 was ringed by Otto Overdijk. Otto, from the Werkgroep Lepelaar (Spoonbill Working Group), has kindly provided the life histories of both birds earlier

Rachid el Khamlichi (all photos) & Mohamed Amezian

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