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Desert birds breeding in late autumn and other curiosities

Birding the Sahara is just excellent after rains.

A large team composed by several researchers from different fields participated in late November 2015 in an expedition to the areas of Tirs and Adrar Sotouf (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 team recorded the autumnal breeding of several Saharan birds. As observed in previous seasons (e.g. 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 a kitchen bowl (5 eggs in a bowl used locally for camel milk, last photo). Also, the nesting of a House Sparrow in an unlikely place: near Hassi Bougouffa at the western limit of Adrar Sottouf.

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

Amezian, M., Bergier, P. & Qninba, A. 2014. Autumn-winter breeding by Cream-coloured Coursers Cursorius cursor is more common than previously reported. Wader Study Group Bulletin 121: 177–180.

Amezian, M., Radi, M., Ibn Tattou, M., Khayya, M.L., Samlali, M.L & Qninba, A. 2011. Cricket Longtail breeding in southern Morocco. Dutch Birding 33: 229-233.

Qninba, A., Radi, M., Amezian, M., Ibn Tattou, M., Khayya, M.L., Samlali, M.L., Khalil, M.L. & Hammia, A. 2011. Nidifications automnales d’oiseaux sahariens dans la région d’Oued Ad-Dahab – Lagouira (Maroc méridional). Go-South Bulletin 8: 21-34.

Photo credits:

All photographs were taken by Abdeljebbar Qninba (Scientific Institute, University of Mohammed V) except the photo of the Cream-coloured Cursor with a juvenile which was taken by Abdelaziz Benhoussa (Faculty of Sciences, University of Mohammed V).

Adult male Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps).
Juvenile Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps).
Adult Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursos) and its chick.
Nest of Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes) with three chicks.
Nest of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) near Hassi Bougouffa, Adrar Sottouf.
Adult female Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) feeding young.
Unusual nest of White-crowned Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga).

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