This breeding season (2013) was good at Smir heronry compared with the last year (2012) when at least the Glossy Ibis has most likely failed to nest because of disturbance.
There was much less disturbance this year (probably because of the sensitisation of the gardeners done last year), and all species returned to breed in the colony in more or less their usual numbers.
On 18 April 2013, we visited the heronry and recorded everything we could see from 2 locations. We could not see the whole colony because the monitoring was done in a hurry this time (we only allowed in for a few minutes), unlike the relatively relaxed work done during the previous year.
(in the following, occupied nest = birds incubating eggs).
- Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): one bird (this species nest deep in the lower branches of the trees in the colony, so we most likely missed most of them due the problem explained above).
- Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): hundreds of occupied nests.
- Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): 6 occupied nests.
- Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus): 20 occupied nests.
- Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia): 13 occupied nests.
Nominate subspecies of the Eurasian Spoonbill (P. l. Leucordia) in Africa:
The 15 to 25 breeding pairs of Eurasian Spoonbill at Smir heronry may be insignificant in comparison with other populations, like the 1400 breeding pairs counted this year in Andalusia, southern Spain. But the spoonbills at Smir are special, because this population is the only one which has bred and successfully maintained its colony. They nested continuously at Smir colony since the first breeding pair was discovered there in 1994 (Peal & Peal 1995, El Agbani et al. 2002, our observations since years). Other populations of the nominate subspecies have also bred or attempted to breed in a few places in Northwest Africa but they were not successful:
- Attempted nesting at Tahaddart estuary (northern Morocco) in 1967 (Pineau & Giraud-Audine 1979).
- Nesting suspected at Khnifiss lagoon (southern Morocco) in 1985 (Thévenot et al. 2003).
- Has bred (one egg found in May) at Lake Fetzara (northern Algeria) at the beginning of the 20th century (Isenmann & Moali 2000).
- In June 2004, 80 Spoonbills in full breeding plumage and showing breeding behaviour were observed in a colony of nesting Little Egret at Thyna saltpans, Sfax, Tunisia (Habib Dlensi pers. obs. in Smart et al. 2007).
El Agbani, M. A., Bayed, A., Dakki, M., & Qninba, A. 2002. Découverte d’une colonie reproductrice de Spatule blanche Platalea leucorodia dans le Nord-Ouest du Maroc. pp. 19–22. In: J. Veen & O. Stepanova (Eds.), Wetland management for Spoonbills and associated waterbirds. Report of the 68th EUROSITE Workshop. Texel.
Isenmann, P., & Moali, A. 2000. Oiseaux d’Algérie / Birds of Algeria. SEOF, Paris.
Peal, R.E.F. & Peal, E. 1995. Nidification de la Spatule blanche (Platalea leucorodia) dans le Nord du Maroc. Porphyrio 7: 92.
Pineau, J. & Giraud-Audine, M. 1979. Les oiseaux de la Péninsule Tingitane. Travaux de l’Institut Scientifique, Sér. Zool., n° 38, Rabat.
Smart, M., Azafzaf, H., & Dlensi, H. 2007. The ‘Eurasian’ Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) in Africa. Ostrich 78: 495–500.
Thévenot, M., Vernon, R., & Bergier, P. (2003). The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist, no. 20. British Ornithologists Union, Tring.
Rachid el Khamlichi & Mohamed Amezian