Pied Avocets from the Black Sea wintering in Marchica, Morocco

Deux Avocettes élégantes de la Bulgarie et d’Ukraine hivernant à Marchica, sur la côte méditerranéenne du Maroc. Ce sont probablement les premiers individus de cette espèce de la région de la mer Noire à hiverner au Maroc, loin à l’ouest de leur voie de migration habituelle.

Mise à jour : l’Avocette ukrainienne est revenue hiverner à Marchica pour la deuxième année consécutive. C’est ce qu’on appelle la fidélité au site ou la philopatrie (voir au bas de la page).

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In Morocco, Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a localized breeder and a common passage migrant and winter visitor. The average wintering population for the three periods 2001-2005, 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 is 10010, 11495 and 13163 individuals respectively (El Agbani et al. 2027, Ouassou et al. 2017, Qninba et al. 2017).

The origin of the passage migrants passing through Morocco and the wintering population is mainly from Western and Northern Europe, with some birds from Central Europe as well.

The breeding population of the Black Sea region and Eastern Europe in general are far away from East Atlantic flyway, on which Morocco is located.

This winter season (December and January), two Pied Avocets from the Black Sea region were observed wintering at the Ramsar site of Marchica (a.k.a. Sebkha BouAreg or Lagoon of Nador) on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. The observer is Said Azaouaghe, the coordinator of GREPOM/BirdLife Morocco in the Oriental region.

The first bird was ringed as a pullus in Pomorie Lake, Bulgaria on 5 June 2022. It was photographed at Marchica on 6 January 2023 (below). It’s the first recovery of a Bulgarian Pied Avocet in Morocco.

Pied Avocet ringed in Bulgaria on 5 June 2022, and observed wintering in Marchica, Morocco
Pied Avocet ringed in Bulgaria on 5 June 2022, and observed wintering in Marchica, Morocco.

The second bird was ringed as an adult on 14 August 2020 near Kobleve on the Tiligulsky Liman, Ukraine. It was observed wintering at Marchica on 6 January 2023 (photo below).

Pied Avocet ringed in Ukraine on 14 August 2020, and observed wintering in Marchica, Morocco
Pied Avocet ringed in Ukraine on 14 August 2020, and observed wintering in Marchica, Morocco.

The straight-line links between the ringing sites and Marchica are shown with the thick arrows in the map below (from the Bird Migration Atlas project).

Ringing and recovery data of Pied Avocets from the Bird Migration Atlas project, with the thick arrows showing the links between the Bulgarian and Ukrainian sites and Marchica, Morocco
Ringing and recovery data of Pied Avocets from the Bird Migration Atlas project, with the thick arrows showing the links between the Bulgarian and Ukrainian sites and Marchica, Morocco.

Many thanks to the observer for keeping an eye on the birds of Marchica, and to Vladimir Mladenov (Bulgaria) and the Ukrainian Bird Ringing Centre for communicating the life history of the birds.

References:

  • El Agbani, M.A., Dakki, M., Benhoussa, A., Radi, M., El Hamoumi, R., Chillasse, L. & Qninba, A. 2017. Recensement hivernal d’oiseaux d’eau au Maroc 2001-2005. Travaux de l’Institut Scientifique, Rabat, série Zoologie n°53.
  • Ouassou, A., Dakki, M., El Agbani, M.A., Radi, M., El Idrissi Essougrati, A., Lahrouz, S. & Qninba, A. 2017. Recensement hivernal d’oiseaux d’eau au Maroc 2011-2015. Travaux de l’Institut Scientifique, Rabat, série Zoologie n°55.
  • Qninba, A., Ouassou, A., Radi, M., El Agbani, M.A., Boumaâza, M., Amezian, M. & Dakki, M. 2017. Recensement hivernal d’oiseaux d’eau au Maroc 2006-2010. Travaux de l’Institut Scientifique, Rabat, série Zoologie n°54.

Update:

The Ukrainian bird returned again to winter at Marchica for the second successive year. On 26 December 2023, it was photographed at the site along with other wintering Pied Avocets (below). This phenomenon is known as site fidelity or philopatry, which denotes the tendency of birds (and other animals) to return to a familiar place (birth site, wintering site,…) year after year.

The Ukrainian bird returned to winter at Marchica, Morocco for the second successive year.

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