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New Spoonbill colony discovered in Morocco

The newly discovered Eurasian Spoonbill colony near Casablanca is only the second in Morocco.

Since 1994, the Smir heronry hosted the only breeding population of the nominate subspecies of the Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) in Africa (El Agbani et al. 2002; El Khamlichi & Amezian 2015). The multi-species heronry hosts also Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). And since 2011, Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) also breeds at this colony (Amezian et al. 2011).

The new colony

In 2017, a new breeding colony of the Eurasian Spoonbill was found at Barrage Oued El-Maleh in the Casablanca region (Rihane & El Hamoumi 2017). The reservoir, which is a Ramsar site since 2005, is located some 30 Km from the Atlantic Ocean. The new colony, of about 20 breeding pairs, is also established in a mixed heronry but with a different species composition: Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). The observation of a Spanish-ringed adult at the colony confirms the European origin of at least a part of the colony.

In 2018, the Spoonbills returned to breed at the same site again. See the photos below taken by Rhimou El Hamoumi this month.


Amezian, M., El Khamlichi, R. & Elbanak, A. 2012. Breeding of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus in the mixed heronry adjacent to Smir marshes, northern Morocco. Alauda 80: 33–38.

El Agbani, M. A., Bayed, A., Dakki, M. & Qninba, A. 2002. Découverte d’une colonie reproductrice de Spatule blanche Platalea leucorodia dans le Nord-Ouest du Maroc. pp. 38–40. In: Veen, J. & Stepanova, O. (Eds.), Wetland management for Spoonbills and associated waterbirds. Report of the 68th EUROSITE Workshop, Texel.

El Khamlichi, R. & Amezian, M. 2015. La colonia de Espátula común (Platalea leucorodia) de Smir, norte de Marruecos: pasado, presente y futuro. pp. 271-276. In: Hortas, F. & Ruiz, J. (Eds.), La migración intercontinental de la espátula (Platalea leucorodia). pp. 271–276. Grupo de Desarrollo Pesquero Cádiz-Estrecho & Sociedad Gaditana de Historia Natural, Cádiz.

Rihane, A. & El Hamoumi, R. 2017. Reproduction de la Spatule blanche Platalea leucorodia au barrage de l’Oued El Maleh (Mohammedia). Go-South Bull. 14: 29-36.

Eurasian Spoonbills / Spatules blanches (Platalea leucorodia), Barrage Oued El-Maleh, Casablanca region, Morocco, March 2018 (Rhimou El Hamoumi).
Eurasian Spoonbill nest with three eggs / Nid de Spatule blanche avec trois œufs, Barrage Oued El-Maleh, March 2018 (Rhimou El Hamoumi).

In coordination with the Casablanca and Tétouan teams, we hope this year to start a colour-ringing program at both colonies.

1 thought on “New Spoonbill colony discovered in Morocco”

  1. Rachel Blech

    MAY 2022
    A colony of around 20 Eurasian Spoonbills are currently feeding in the Oued Ksob estuary near Diabat, Essaouira.
    There are also few remaining flamingos, though most have already migrated.

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