Laughing Dove reached northernmost Morocco, its final step before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to colonise Europe.
Laughing Doves (Spilopelia senegalensis) observed near Tétouan from mid-February until June 2013. The species has been observed at Larache, but to our knowledge these are the first sightings of the species in the Tangier Peninsula. Tétouan is located only a few kilometres from the Strait of Gibraltar, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see the species cross the Strait and colonise the European continent.
We first saw a single bird on 16 February 2013 at Sidi Abdeslam, east of Tétouan. Then Rachid observed 5 different birds at the same site on 2 March. He also noted breeding behaviour (photo 2). On 31 March, he observed 3 birds at a different site. We continued to see Laughing Doves in May and June whenever we visited the site.
Rapid northward expansion
Laughing Dove has colonised Morocco from western Algeria relatively quickly since the 1990s. However, this expansion has not been as rapid as the southward expansion of the Collard Dove (Streptopelia decaocto). The latter species first colonised northern Morocco from Europe, and then continued its rapid expansion towards the centre and south of Morocco (Bergier et al. 1999).
Up until 2010, Laughing Dove has been observed nearly in the whole of Morocco with the exception of the Rif Mountains, high altitude in the Atlas Mountains and Tangier Peninsula (See the map showing the ‘Range of Laughing Dove in Morocco’ prepared by M. Thévenot on 11 March 2010 and reproduced in Hanane et al. 2011).
In the northern part of the country, it was only recorded before in eastern Morocco since 2004 (and started breeding in 2005) and along the Atlantic coast north to Larache where for instance Abdelhak Elbanak observed one bird on 24 June 2011.
With its arrival at the extreme northwest of Morocco, Laughing Dove has completed the colonization of the whole country (except the highest mountains where it’s limited by climate). Its next steps would be to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and colonize Europe starting from Andalusia where other African species have already formed small breeding populations in the last few decades.
Bergier, P., Franchimont, J. & Thévenot, M. 1999. Implantation et expansion géographique de deux espèces de columbidés au Maroc: la Tourterelle Turque Streptopelia decaocto et la Tourterelle Maillée Streptopelia senegalensis. Alauda 67: 23-36.
Hanane, S., Bergier, P. & Thévenot, M. 2011. La reproduction de la Tourterelle maillée Streptopelia senegalensis dans la plaine du Tadla (Maroc central) : analyse comparée avec la Tourterelle des bois Streptopelia turtur. Alauda 79: 17-28.