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Blue-naped Mousebirds and Black Scrub Robins in southern Algeria

During a recent trip to southern Algeria, members of EcoCirta found groups of Blue-naped Mousebird and two Black Scrub Robins. They are, respectively, the second and third records for Algeria.

From 20 to 28 December 2021, the EcoCirta Environmental Association organized its sixth naturalist expedition to the far south of the Algerian Sahara in order to explore and study species distribution of this largely unknown region. The team was composed by Karim Haddad and Larbi Afoutni, two active members of the association. During previous trips, the team recorded, among others, the first Jacobin Cuckoo and flocks of Sudan Golden Sparrow as well as African Silverbill at new sites.

During the expedition, the team concentrated the birding efforts especially in the Wilaya of In Guezzam in southernmost Algeria. We should recall that the territory of this newly created wilaya (=province) was part of the Wilaya of Tamanrasset until December 2019. It’s composed by two communes: In Guezzam bordering with Niger and Tin Zaouatine bordering with Mali to the west. This context is useful because the first record of Blue-naped Mousebird for Algeria was recorded in Tin Zaouatine in 2018 (see also: Haddad K. & Bekkouche S. 2021. Blue-naped Mousebird and Black Scrub Robin at Tamanrasset, Algeria, in 2018-19. Dutch Birding 43 (2): 147-149).

In terms of biogeography, most of the territory of Wilaya of In Guezzam lies outside the Western Palearctic (sensu BWP), however the town of Tin Zaouatine (but not the whole commune of the same name) is within the WP.

During their nine-day trip, the team “hit the birding jackpot” when they found the Blue-naped Mousebird and Black Scrub Robin, two very rare birds in the region.

Blue-naped Mousebird

The team found active and foraging groups of Blue-naped Mousebirds at two new sites. This is the second record of the species for Algeria (Note that the observer who recorded the first Blue-naped Mousebird knew the species before he documented it with photos and a video).

Two Blue-naped Mousebirds / Coliou huppé (Urocolius macrourus), Wilaya of In Guezzam, southern Algeria, 23 December 2021 (Karim Haddad).
A foraging group of Blue-naped Mousebird / Coliou huppé (Urocolius macrourus), Wilaya of In Guezzam, southern Algeria, 23 December 2021 (Karim Haddad).

Black Scrub Robin

The team found two Black Scrub Robins at also two new sites. This is the third record of the species for Algeria. The second for the country was photographed at Tamanrasset in May 2019 (see also: Haddad & Bekkouche 2021).

Black Scrub Robin / Agrobate podobé (Cercotrichas podobe), Wilaya of In Guezzam, southern Algeria, 23 December 2021 (Karim Haddad).
Black Scrub Robin / Agrobate podobé (Cercotrichas podobe), Wilaya of In Guezzam, southern Algeria, 23 December 2021 (Karim Haddad).

Karim Haddad wrote in email:

According to our ornithological surveys on the ground, we are hoping that these two species may exist elsewhere in other municipalities in the south of the country and that we will be able to find them in the following years. This is why we encourage and advise, as always, amateur and professional ornithologists to carry out new expeditions every month, which would be very desirable for the improvement of knowledge of the Algerian avifauna.

An article is being prepared for both species.

Many thanks to Karim for sharing the photographs and the details of their observations.

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