Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) is undoubtedly the jewel of the birds of North Africa. Yes, this is what European birders say about it (facebook).
The species breeds in a variety of habitats where the nests are placed on the ground, at the foot of grass tussock, under thorn scrub, at the base of a bush near the ground. The nests are also placed in holes in trees up to 2.5 m, river banks and among boulders (Thévenot et al. 2003 – Birds of Morocco).The species is not known to nest in human habitations, there was only one case of nesting in the traditional thatched roof (Thévenot et al. 2003, citing the classic work of Heim de Balsac & Mayaud “Les oiseaux du nord-ouest de l’Afrique” published in 1962).
This year, Mary & Miloud El Menyiy documented successful breeding of Moussier’s Redstarts in a human habitation at Ait Mimoun, a rural village south of Agadir. There were two nests in their house, both built in lampshade, one in the balcony and the other on the ground floor terrace which is directly below the balcony. To our knowledge this is the first observation of Moussier’s Redstart nesting in a man-made structure and so close to humans (comments are welcome if we missed something). Mary describes themselves as “novice at birding and photography” but we see them as good birders and we should congratulate them for this interesting observation. And Many thanks for sharing this with us. Please read below the full story (click on the images to enlarge them):
Moussier’s Redstarts nesting in our home at Ait Mimoun
by Mary & Miloud El Menyiy
|The proud father Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri), Ait Mimoun (Mary El Menyiy)|
Our first encounter with Moussier’s Redstarts was when our house was being built in 2011 in Ait Mimoun, a rural village between Sidi Bibi and Tifnit and approximately 6 km from the sea.
Builders had left an empty cement bag on top of the partially built barbecue in the perimeter wall. Miloud saw three eggs in the nest and spotted both male and female adults. On a later fleeting visit he discovered the nest had been disturbed and the chicks were dead on the ground.
On our visits in 2012 and 2013 we found nests in the ground floor lampshade and the second floor balcony lampshade.
This year, 2014, our visits coincided with the nests being built, eggs being laid, and chicks developing as well as our increased interest in birding and photography.
In March 2014, we saw the female arriving at the balcony lampshade with nest building materials. Our visit ended before we could see any other activity.
On our return in May we found an empty nest in the same lampshade which we photographed before cleaning the shade out as we wanted to use the light.
In the same mouth, we saw a female arriving at the lampshade on the ground floor terrace which is directly below the balcony. We then saw the female arrive and stay in the nest in the lampshade. We continued to use the door to the terrace and this did not disturb the bird.
A few days later I spotted the female leaving the nest and flying off so I took the opportunity to look inside. There were three eggs. The female returned, stayed on the nest and was brought food by the male.
The next time we noticed both male and female were arriving with food to feed the chicks.
When we were sure both adult birds had flown off, I again took a picture inside the nest. This was done quickly so as not to disturb the birds. I caught the light fitting as well as 2 of the young birds on the picture.
We continued to observe the male and female Moussier’s Redstarts arriving to feed the chicks.
Unfortunately we then left for home in England so were unable to make any further observations. We shall return at the end of July.