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Red-billed Tropicbird at Oued Massa, Morocco

A Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) flying-over a beach near Oued Massa, southern Morocco.

Red-billed Phaeton near Oued Massa, southern Morocco, 13 May 2021
Red-billed Tropicbird / Phaéton à bec rouge (Phaethon aethereus), near Oued Massa, southern Morocco, 13 May 2021 (Sabine Zègres).

Sabine Zègres photographed the Red-billed Tropicbird at a beach near Oued Massa on 13 May 2021. The bird was heading north and, for a moment, seemed to have wanted to land near a small group of cormorants and gulls but continued flying because of the human presence.

According to soon-to-be published ‘Oiseaux du Maroc’ (Bergier et al. 2022), there have been three positively-identified records in Morocco, all of them were observed off the region of Oued Dahab. So, this is the 4th Moroccan record of this tropical seabird.

Dispersion and then breeding in the Canary Islands

Records of Red-billed Tropicbird have markedly increased in the Canary Islands since the 1990s. In the figure below, Marcel Gil Velasco mapped the records of Red-billed Tropicbird in the Canary Islands between 1985 and 2018 (shared on Twitter). The nearest breeding population is located in Cape Verde.

Records of Red-billed Tropicbird in the Canary Islands between 1985 and 2018 (Marcel Gil Velasco).

With the increasing number of birds observed in the Canary Islands, the species’ breeding on the archipelago becomes a question of “when” rather than “if”.

Eventually, the first ever breeding was recorded on the island of El Hierro in autumn 2007 (see: Dies et al. 2009). And single breeding pairs have been recorded in other islands since then. And in 2016, the first breeding colony (20-25 birds and at least 8-9 active nests) was found in Fuerteventura (see: Gil-Velasco et al. 2018).

Taking into account all of this, it’s safe to say that the species is under-recorded in Morocco. The Cape Verde Shearwater (Calonectris edwardsii) is in the same category.

References:

Bergier, P. ; Thévenot, M. ; Qninba, A. & Houllier J.R. 2022 (to be published). Oiseaux du Maroc. SEOF, Paris.

Dies, J. I., Lorenzo, J. A., Gutiérrez, R., Garcia, E., Gorospe, G., Martí-Aledo, J., Gutiérrez, P., Vidal, C., Sales, S., & López Velasco, D. 2009. Observaciones de Aves Raras en España, 2007. Ardeola 56: 309–344.

Gil-Velasco, M., Rouco, M., Ferrer, J., García-Tarrasón, M., García-Vargas, F. J., Gutiérrez, A., Hevia, R., López, F., López-Velasco, D., Ollé, À., Rodríguez, G., Sagardía, J., & Salazar, J. A. 2018. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2016. Ardeola 65: 97–139.

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