The Beautiful Birds of Zaër Forest
Located near the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, the spectacular Zaër Forest offers some of Morocco’s finest scenery and birdlife which can be enjoyed as a day trip from either of these charming Moroccan cities. Birding enthusiasts will especially appreciate Zaër Forest as it has a variety of species in number large enough to guarantee some productive bird watching. The varied terrain includes lush green valleys, cork oak forests and gorges with plentiful water to keep the vegetation producing food for local feathered inhabitants.
Tours of Zaër Forest can start from either Rabat or Casablanca by car. Trekkers can choose to complete a circular trek, ending back at the beginning of the trail, but other options are available, including a stay at the hunting lodge at Sidi Yahya Zaër. Visitors will also come across some small village settlements as they make their way through Zaër Forest.The best birding opportunities are just north of Sidi Bettache where visitors are very likely to see black-headed bush shrikes, double-spurred francolins, European turtle doves, booted eagles, woodchat shrikes and yellow wagtails. Favoring open habitats with trees, the double-spurred francolin (Pternistis bicalcaratus) is endemic to Morocco. The population of this brown and cream spotted game bird located in Zaër Forest is believed to be the last of its kind in the Western Palaearctic, but it is not considered to be endangered and is listed as LC – least concern – on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Other birds to be found in Zaër Forest include mallard, flycatchers, shovelars, little grebes, common coots, greenshank, white stork, redshank and common sandpiper.
As the name would suggests, the cork oak tree (Quercus suber), is the primary source of cork for wine corks, and other natural cork products. Harvesting the cork from these hardy trees does not harm them, and with a life span of between 150 and 250 years, cork oak trees are considered to be a renewable resource. They can grow to a height of twenty meters with a wide spreading canopy providing shade and shelter for a variety of wildlife, including the beautiful birds of Zaër Forest in Morocco.