Desert Sparrows in Morocco

WüstensperlingMorocco, one of the northernmost countries of Africa is a top tourist destination. Morocco is situated in the northwest corner of Africa and is basically an African country with a large Mediterranean region along the coast. Additionally Morocco might not sound like a birdwatcher’s paradise but, Morocco offers surprisingly good birding in various habitats. Morocco is one of the favorite destinations for birders in search of endangered or rare species of the Palearctic. Many birds are generally endangered and rare or are species which are rare in Palearctic because their main distribution is mainly in the core lands of Africa. Anyway, birds such as Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus), Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae), Marsh Owl (Asio capensis), Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vaillantii), Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus), Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti), African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti), Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) and the Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex) are a real must for the keen birder.

Morocco offers sandy deserts of the Sahara, high mountains of the Atlas mountain chain and coastal strips along the Atlantic. The most exotic part is certainly the Sahara in Morocco. The area lies to the south of the High and Anti-Atlas. In the Eastern part, palm oases stretch along the rivers. Some areas offers scenic, spectacular landscapes with undulated dunes as you can see in the movies, but the region contains mainly deserts with large stones in the pebble desert.

The bird species to be observed differ remarkably by region. Many desert-living species, including Larks and Sandgrouses are widespread in the deserts; other birds of the desert are more restricted in range. One of the “best birds” is found near a real birding hotspot. This is at the temporary lake of Merzouga south of the small town of Erfoud. Here the only large Moroccan sand dunes can be found. The bird is the Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex). The Desert Sparrow is a small songbird found in North Africa and Central Asia which used to be quite common during a trip to the area in June 2002. The remembrance of the Dessert Sparrow is that of a abundant bird around the buildings of a basic hostal right on the shores of the lake. The Sparrows could be approached very well. They were not shy, as you see in the picture taken at that time.

Unfortunately the populations of Desert Sparrow are decreasing dramatically due to the building of new hotels for tourism, which unfortunately now attract House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). The competition with the bigger congener is a real threat to the Dessert Sparrow, because House Sparrows occupy most of the available nesting space. The quick development of tourism in the area is affecting not only this species, losing its fragile and extreme habitat.

In winter 2011 some ornithologists together with the Emberiza Foundation started an experimental project to help the Desert Sparrow. They set up nest boxes in the area with the hope that the Desert Sparrows could find suitable nesting sites away from the new buildings. First they visited the area searching for trees close to the dunes, where they could hang the nest boxes. After 3 years with mixed experiences in location, shape and material of the boxes (some boxes obviously were too good to be hanging just on trees and were stolen by the locals) showed that the experiment is promising if you involve the local population (Berbers) in the maintenance of the nest boxes.

Let’s hope, that coming generations of birders can enjoy the desert jewel, too!

In order to meet the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western Palearctic. Trips to remote places like this one to capture images of rare birds of western Palearctic were very successful. The nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture-Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Other successful shootings you can see under: www.bird-lens.com in the pictures shop.

Tags: Bald Ibis, Geronticus calvus, Kahlkopfrapp, Eleonora’s Falcon, Falco eleonorae, Eleonorenfalke, Marsh Owl, Asio capensis, Kapohreule, Black-crowned Tchagra, Tchagra senegalus, Senegaltschagra, Dupont’s Lark, Chersophilus duponti, Dupontlerche, African Desert Warbler, Sylvia deserti, Saharagrasmücke, Moussier’s Redstart, Phoenicurus moussieri, Diademrotschwanz, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Levaillant’s green woodpecker, Picus vaillantii, Desert Sparrow, Passer simplex, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, Haussperling, Emberiza Foundation

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