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Morocco: the deserts

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

This the only place in the world where the Argan tree grows, producing a savannah-type habitat much loved by birds of prey. In 1993 I visited this area with W.H. Payn who recalled his previous trip here in 1938 with Col. Meinerzhagen when they had Double-spurred Francolin, as well as perhaps a dozen sightings of Chanting Goshawks. Those days are long gone. In the 1990’s there was still a chance of seeing Chanting Goshawks and Tawny Eagles but now those species seem to have gone completely perhaps because the Argan scrub is now much depleted due to the development of vast olive and orange groves and over-grazing by tree-climbing goats. Even so, this area still has good birds including Fulvous Babbler, Little Swift, Black-shouldered Kite, Barbary Falcon. ‘Moroccan’ Magpie, Western Orphean Warbler and Red-necked Nightjar. Even better, there is now a known site here where desert species such as Hoopoe Lark, Desert Wheatear and even Egyptian Nightjar can be found.

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

Sous Valley

The Oued Sous here is so wide that it has created a desert habitat of its own, just as bare and stony as the breeding sites for Egyptian Nightjar further east. The town in the background is what I call ‘New Igoudar’’

This track across the dry Oued Sous leads eventually to ‘Old Igoudar’ where Dark Chanting Goshawks were seen in the 1990’s


March 2011 (D Gosney et al)

In 3 visits to site 3 (page 26) we found Fulvous Babblers every time although on one occasion they were only heard. We also had a pair of Black-crowned Tchagras, located by the male singing in the scrubby trees next to the hotel - a great sound to wake up to!

A raptor watch from site 7 produced mostly passage birds such as Black Kites, Montagu’s Harriers and Marsh Harriers. The two Booted Eagles may have been local breeders that had just arrived.

We had several sightings of Black-shouldered Kite including two close to Agadir airport but one particularly good spot for them seems to be just east of Igli on Route 10. From the km post Agadir 111, you’ll see a large uncultivated area on the north side of the road which looks just great for raptors - we had 2 Black-shouldered Kites that kept returning to this area to feed and a Booted Eagle flew over too.

There’s now a motorway connecting Agadir to Casablanca via Marrakech. From this new road, during the first 20 km out of Agadir, you get views over an area of Argan steppe that looks remarkably well-preserved, in an area stretching as far as Agadir airport. If such a large area is still intact, why have all the Chanting Goshawks and Tawny Eagles disappeared - or are some still there?