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Spanish Marbled Ducks tracked to Africa

Movements of two satellite-tracked Marbled Ducks (Marmaronetta angustirostris) from Spain to North Africa. One of them, made a spectacular round-trip in 24 hours.

As part of the ‘Marbled Duck reintroduction project’ in the Valencian Community (SE Spain), 21 birds were fitted with GPS-trackers and released into El Hondo Natural Park (Some birds are of wild origin, while others are captive-bred for the purpose if this restocking project).

The study is carried out by the “Research group on Ecology and Conservation of Biodiversity” at the Miguel Hernández University of Elche.

So far this season, only two tracked Marbled Ducks visited Northwest Africa, and one of them has done so very briefly. (Last year, three out of 27 Marbled Ducks migrated to Algeria, the birds that stayed locally in Spain were either missing, shot dead or died from other causes. Read: Spanish Marbled Ducks migrate to Africa to escape hunters’ guns).

Quick round-trip

This bird made a spectacular round-trip from El Hondo to Algeria and back to Spain in about 24 hours. On the night of 22-23 November, it crossed the Mediterranean Sea in about 4 hours to arrive in Algeria after mid-night. It stayed at Sebkha of Oran until late afternoon when it moved north back to Spain.

This GPS-tracked Marbled Duck made a round-trip from Spain to Algeria and back in about 24 hours (Ecology Research Group at Miguel Hernandez University of Elche).

Over-wintering (apparently)

The other Marbled Duck that visited North Africa arrived at the Algerian coast on the night of 16-17 November. After spending less than a day resting at the Macta marches (a Ramsar site since 2001), it moved westward to Morocco where it stayed at Barrage Mohammed V (also a Ramsar site since 2005).

This GPS-tracked Marbled Duck preferred to winter in North Africa (Ecology Research Group at Miguel Hernandez University of Elche)

Globally, the Marbled Duck is categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but in Spain the threat status is even higher. Hunting remains one of the main threats to Marbled Duck in Spain and at El Hondo in particular.

To sound the alarm, a recent paper by the same research group (Botella et al. 2020) called for an urgent regularization of the hunting activities of waterbirds in the wetlands harbouring the most threatened ducks in Spain.

The project is financed by the “Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition” of the Valencian Government and the “Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge” of the Central Government.


Botella, F., Pérez-García, J.M., Aldeguer, Ó. & Ferrández , M. 2020. La cerceta pardilla no remonta el vuelo. Quercus (413): 12-18.

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