Bird Watching in Morocco
With a variety of different habitats supporting a diverse range of bird species, Morocco is steadily gaining recognition as a worthwhile birding destination. The country lies in the northwest region of Africa, with the Sahara to the south and the Mediterranean to the north. Its summers are hot and dry, with rains generally falling between October and April, and drought conditions commonly occurring in the Saharan region. Up to 454 species of birds have been recorded in Morocco, some of which are considered to be endangered or rare, such as the Tawny Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Marsh Owl, Desert Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier’s Redstart and Dupont’s Lark, as well as the Bald Ibis, which is reportedly now only found in the wild in Morocco.
In addition to resident birds, Morocco is a stopover point or wintering ground for up to 120 species of migrating birds mainly from Western Europe. Passerines may be more difficult to spot during migration, as they fly at night or at a height that makes it difficult to see them, but the wetlands of Morocco are a favored destination for waders and gulls, so birders will have plenty to see in the autumn months of July to early November, and in spring which is from March to May. Wetlands along the Atlantic coast include Merja Zerga, the sidi-Moussa-Oualidia lagoons, Lac de Sdi Bou-Rhaba and the Souss and Massa estuaries along the north Atlantic coast of Morocco. The Mediterranean coast of Morocco features the Sebkha Bou-Areg and Moulouya estuaries, both of which are favored by large numbers of birds. Soaring birds, such as storks and raptors, are seen in great numbers along the Straits of Gibraltar during migration seasons, while the Souss valley is one of the hotspots for viewing the Tawny Eagle and Dark Chanting Goshawk.
The mountains of Morocco include five major ranges running on a northeast to southwest axis. While human settlements and domesticated livestock are encroaching on these areas, there are still huge areas of broad-leaved and coniferous forests which are home to a variety of birds and other animals. In the Middle Atlas region birders are likely to see Levaillant’s Woodpecker and Crested Coot, with the High Atlas being home to the Rock Sparrow, Crimson-winged Finch and Alpine Accentor.
The publication A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Morocco is packed with information about the top birding sites in Morocco, and birders planning a visit to this spectacular North African country may want to consider getting a copy to take along.