birding sites in

Morocco: the deserts

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

If you’re going to the desert areas around Merzouga, you’ll almost certainly have to go through Rissani but it’s worth spending some time here as this area has probably the best stake-outs for Saharan Olivaceous Warbler, Pharaoh Eagle owl and Egyptian Nightjar.

All the sites in this section are treated, in detail and with precise maps and directions, in my book ‘Finding Birds in Morocco: the deserts’

If you have any information which you feel would help to update the book, please email me at and I’ll add your observations to these pages

To view more sites in Morocco’s deserts click here


Good habitat for species such as Fulvous Babbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Rufous Bush Chat

These tamarisks, site1 in my book, support several pairs of Saharan Olivaceous Warbler. This is a particularly good place to learn their distinctive songs, as explained in the DVD.

A pair of Pharaoh (or ‘Desert’) Eagle Owl can usually be found at the far end of this line of cliffs (site 3 in my book). The DVD shows exactly on which parts of the cliff they usually roost

Having searched unsuccessfully for Egyptian Nightjar many times in Israel, Egypt, Oman and Morocco I was delighted to finally encounter several of them here near Rissani (site 4). This species has proved to be unreliable in some years at other sites so this location is probably your best bet 


March 2011 (D Gosney et al)

Oh dear, what have I started? When we visited site 3 we were immediately set upon by Ali the Nomad, another Moroccan with binoculars and about 4 other Moroccans selling fossils, all keen to scramble up the slope to find a good spot for viewing the Eagle Owl. But, possibly, because of this disturbance, the owls weren’t there, although the ‘guide’ showed me photos of one taken there on 17th March. Ali the Nomad insisted he could show us another pair of owls at another nearby site but the price was 10 Euros per person. As there 10 of us, we declined. However, this site is still worth visiting if only to get FANTASTIC views of a pair of Lanner Falcon that now seem to be breeding about 20 metres to the right of the Eagle owl ‘nest’. We watched one of them eating a Trumpeter Finch.