The Exotic Avian Species of Southern Morocco

The unique and dramatic landscape of Southern Morocco is a birder’s dream, with the varied habitat providing a home for a vast variety of exotic North African avian species. For birdwatchers who embark on an adventure to Morocco, holidays that take in the rugged altitudes of the High Atlas Mountains, the vastness of the Sahara Desert and the western reaches of the Atlantic seaboard around Agadir provide a spectacular opportunity to encounter a wealth of local and migratory species.

The country has 454 recorded species of birds and in the southern regions, as well as the more common species like Desert Sparrow, Desert Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Dupont’s Lark and Moussier’s Redstart, bird enthusiasts may encounter the more elusive and endangered Dark Chanting Goshawk, Eleonora’s Falcon, Tawny Eagle, African Marsh Owl and the much sought-after Bald Ibis.

The Sahara Desert

One of the most unique aspects of Morocco holidays focused on birdwatching is a 4WD excursion out into the barren, inhospitable landscape of the Sahara Desert. Among the species that may be seen deep in the desert around Merzouga are the Houbara Bustard, Desert Sparrow, Fulvous Babbler, sandgrouse and a number of desert larks. In the lush gardens and oases of Erfoud (on the outskirts of the desert) a variety of passerines make their home, including an abundance of Common Bulbuls.

The High Atlas Mountains

The region around Ouarzazate and the Dades Valley is a fascinating landscape of gorges, ravines, rugged cliffs, limestone formations, stony deserts and fortified villages, with a rich avifauna. Around 85% of the country’s 209 recorded breeding avian species breed north of the High Atlas Mountains, and a large population thrives in this diverse habitat. Sandgrouse, larks and Houbara Bustards make their home in the deserts, while against the backdrop of towering cliffs, Bonelli’s Eagles and Crag Martins may be seen making their way across the skies.

The Sous Valley and Atlantic Coast

The lush, fertile Sous Valley is brimming with avifauna that thrives in the woodland habitat. A vast variety of species can be seen around the sixteenth-century town of Taroudant, including Barbary Falcons, Thekla Larks and Thick-billed Larks. Venturing into the citrus and olive groves that define the Sous Valley will reward birders with sightings of numerous warblers and finches as well as the Dark Chanting Goshawk, Spotless Starling Spanish Sparrow and Black-shouldered Kite.

On the windswept Atlantic Coast close to Agadir is one of the country’s most famous birdwatching sites – the Oued Massa lagoon. This spectacularly abundant wetland is home to a host of migrants and wintering raptors, gulls terns, ducks, waders and herons as well as some species that are not so readily seen – like the Black-headed Bush Shrike, the Greater Flamingo, the Tawny Eagle and the rare and endangered Bald Ibis.

Dedicated Morocco Holidays Focusing on Birds

For anyone who wants to encounter the full range of the country’s avifauna, organised Morocco holidays that focus specifically on the birdlife are the best way to do it. Accompanied by expert naturalists and local guides, this kind of dedicated nature tour affords participants the opportunity to visit range of established habitats for the best possible sightings.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in bird watching. With a passionate interest in rare avian species, Marissa chooses the expert-led Morocco holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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