During a short stop at the rubbish dump of Fnideq, we discovered a Pied Crow (Corvus albus) among many Northern Ravens (Corvus corax) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis).
We should note that the behaviour of the crow we saw was that of a perfectly wild bird. It was very shy as it’s the first to fly when we get too close. It was also the first bird to fly when disturbed by the strong wind. So an escape or recent arrival from sea via ships should be discarded. The bird could be one of the birds seen at Ceuta during that last few years, but we really can’t know for sure.
Genuine vagrant or ship-assisted?
With only few records, this sub-Saharan species is still a major rarity in the Western Palearctic. However not all records are equal. In fact, the ability of the species to move between ports with the help of ships (= ship-assisted dispersal) complicate matters as to what to consider as true vagrants or otherwise.
The species is generally considered as a genuine vagrant in Morocco, Algeria (old records), Libya and in Egypt. The species has also been recorded in the Canary Islands and Southern Europe. However, these records are generally considered as ship-assisted or even escapes in some cases.
Theoretically, the African sightings near the coasts (read ports) – such as those at Tripoli, Fnideq and the nearby Ceuta – can also be considered as ship-assisted. However, since these birds are/were still in mainland Africa they are more likely genuine vagrants. This is because Pied Crows can and do disperse north of their range through the Sahara. Two records in the middle of the Sahara can give us an indication: the old Libyan record at Jalo oasis and the recent one at Mhamid, Morocco.
Inside the Western Palearctic, the species has only bred at Chtoukan, located about 169 km north of Dakhla in southern Morocco, in spring 2010 (Batty 2010). The recent Libyan record near Tripoli involved two birds (Libyan Society for Birds 2013), but there was no indication of breeding.
Batty, C. 2010. Pied Crows in Western Sahara, Morocco. Dutch Birding 32: 329.
Libyan Society for Birds, 2013. Pied Crow (Corvus albus) at Tajura near Tripoli, western Libya. North African Birds (accessed on 26-03-2015).
- 10 October 2015: Rachid photographed a Pied Crow in Fnideq (photo below). It’s likely the same individual we saw last March.
- 2 April 2017: we saw the bird again at the landfill of Fnideq. It’s now just over two years since we first saw the bird at this site.
- Late 2020: Rachid photographed a bird at Fdineq on 3 December. Later in the month, he confirmed the presence of two birds in the town (seen together at a feeding site).
We should add that there is another ‘long-staying’ Pied Crow in Morocco: the bird found at Mhamid, eastern Sahara in November 2015 was still there in March 2020.
Rachid El Khamlichi (all photos) & Mohamed Amezian
Comments on the original post (2025):
We received the comments below about the Pied Crows in the region:
José Navarrete Pérez (SEO Ceuta) commented by email:
Possibly the same bird that we see in Ceuta since April 2012. In May 2012, two were seen together attempting to nest. Since then we see one bird but it’s very restless, moving from one end of the city to the other, and remains little time in the same place.
Joaquín López Rodríguez added that the Pied Crow was still at Ceuta in December 2013 and again in April 2014 when he posted about it in his blog ‘Gaviotas y Pardelas‘.
Javi Elorriaga commented:
There is a long-staying individual regularly seen in Ceuta. This might be the same individual. Indeed, the bird in Ceuta and the one in Tarifa where observed in similar periods, and all the records could involve the same individual who likes our area.
Patrick Bergier gave more details about previous records of the species to in North Africa (see the comments section).
Gonçalo Elias commented about two Pied Crow records Crows in Portugal (see the comments section).
It’s more likely that a few Pied Crows (2 or more??) are present in the area and are moving around between northern Morocco and southern Iberia and as far away as Porto in northern Portugal. However, it’s difficult to confirm this without individually marking these birds by colour rings for example.