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Sudan Golden Sparrow at Ceuta

A Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus) captured at Ceuta during a ringing session.

Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Ceuta, 3 Oct. 2021 (Grupo de anillamiento Chagra).
Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Ceuta, 3 Oct. 2021 (Grupo de anillamiento Chagra).

On 3 October, the Chagra Ringing Group captured an unexpected bird during a ringing session at Punta Blanca in Ceuta: a juvenile Sudan Golden Sparrow.

How it arrived this far north?

While the possibility of a natural arrival can’t be discarded, so is the possibility of escape and ship-assistance. In this respect, its situation is somewhat similar to that of the Pied Crows present at Fnideq and Ceuta. The difference is that the Pied Crow is a much stronger flyer, and also much bigger, than the Sudan Golden Sparrow.

Recent dispersion (or expansion?) to the north

The Sudan Golden Sparrow breeds along a narrow area in the Sahel from Mauritania and Senegal eastwards to the Red Sea coast. Outside its core range, some small satellite breeding areas are located in northern Mauritania and at the border town of In Guezzan, southern Algeria. The breeding of the species at the latter site was first discovered in 1984, and it still breeds there and at other sites immediately adjacent to the town (Haddad et al. 2020).

As a vagrant, the species was observed at Djanet in south-east Algeria, and at a village in the region of Tin Zaouatine, southern Algeria. (A big flock was observed at the latter site, which may suggest some regular movements in this area).

During the last decade, the Sudan Golden Sparrow has been occurring regularly, and often in big numbers, in the Aousserd region in southern Morocco. However, breeding in this region has not been confirmed yet.

Records of unknown origin

As the name indicates, it’s difficult to ascertain how these birds arrived at the places where they were found. In practice, however, this means it was difficult to establish that the birds arrived naturally at the time of observation or at the time of the review of the record. The following birds fall into this category:

An adult male was present in the village of Pajara, Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) from 22 December 2016 until February 2017. It was observed constantly calling from a tree and building a nest. Juan Sagardía gave more details about this bird in this Reservoir Birds article (in Spanish), including a discussion of the possibilities of natural vs. assisted arrival.

A bird photographed at La Línea de la Concepción, Cádiz (southern Spain) on 6 November 2018 (embedded tweet below).


Haddad, K., Afoutni, L. & Mebarki, M. T. 2020. Répartition actuellement connue du Moineau doré Passer luteus dans le sud de l’Algérie. Alauda 88: 56-58.

2 thoughts on “Sudan Golden Sparrow at Ceuta”

  1. A few years agò one male was photographed in Sicily… we always thougth was an escape (and idneed it is rather common in captivity even if I never saw one in Sicily in captivity ) but I am recently start wondering if it could actually be a genuine nomadic vagrant to Europe at some time (in south-most Europe as Sicily and S Spain)

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