Birds of Oued Massa Nature Reserve
Forming part of the Souss-Massa National Park, the Oued Massa is home to a number of bird species, and a stopover point for migratory birds, including the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita). With a fossil record going back an estimated 1.8 million years, the Northern Bald Ibis was once quite common across northern Africa, the Middle East, and southern and central Europe, but disappeared from Europe more than three hundred years ago. There are believed to be up to 500 of these birds in Morocco, many of which are resident in the Oued Massa which, together with three other sites in Morocco, are home to an estimated 95% of the wild population of Northern Bald Ibis. This region of Morocco is also the only site in the country to have breeding pairs of Glossy Ibis.
As the Oued Massa has water all year around, it is an ideal breeding site for Marbled Ducks (Marmaronetta angustirostris) – another globally threatened species. Classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, the Marbled Duck was originally found in large numbers in the Mediterranean region, but is now only found in small colonies in Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Azerbaijan and western India. It is protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).
The Oued Massa estuaries are vital to migratory birds and Audouin’s Gull and the European Spoonbill are among the bird species that spend the winter there. Named for the distinctive shape of its yellow-tipped bill, the European Spoonbill is a familiar sight in North Africa, including Morocco. Its feathers are all white, except for a yellow patch on its breast, and it has black legs. It prefers shallow wetland habitat and are found in marshes, river, lakes and swamps, both fresh and saline.
Other birds visitors to the Souss Massa and Oued Massa reserves can look out for include Red-necked Nightjar, Thick-billed Lark, Moussier’s Redstart and Tristram’s Warbler – to mention just a few.