A Pied Crow (Corvus albus) was seen today, 26 March 2015, at the rubbish dump of Fnideq, northern Morocco. The bird was among a large number of Northern Ravens (Corvus corax) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis).
In the Western Palearctic, the species has bred at Chtoukan, about 169 km north of Dakhla, in southern Morocco in spring 2010 (Batty 2010). It was also observed near the Mediterranean coast of other places in Northwest Africa, like the long-staying pair near Tripoli, Libya (Libyan Society for Birds, 2013), and at Ceuta, just a few Km to the east of Fnideq. While it could be ship-assisted, but since our bird is still in mainland Africa, it could also be a genuine vagrant.
It should be noted that the bahaviour of the bird we saw was perfectly wild. The bird was very shy as it’s the first to fly when we get too close. It was also the first bird to fly when disturbed by the strong wind. So a recent escape or arrival from sea via ships should be discarded. The bird could be one of the birds seen at Ceuta during that last few years, but we really can’t know for sure.
The Pied Crow has been observed in southern Europe several times during the last years, but the species is generally treated there as a ship-assisted. Comments welcome!
Batty, C. 2010. Pied Crows in Western Sahara, Morocco. Dutch Birding 32: 329.
Libyan Society for Birds, 2013. Pied Crow (Corvus albus) at Tajura near Tripoli, western Libya.
Update 1 (comments):
We received the comments below about the Pied Crows in the region:
José Navarrete Pérez (SEO Ceuta) commented by email:
Possibly the same bird that we see in Ceuta since April 2012. In May 2012, two were seen together attempting to nest. Since then we see one bird but it’s very restless, moving from one end of the city to the other, and remains little time in the same place.
Joaquín López Rodríguez added that the Pied Crow was still at Ceuta in December 2013 and again in April 2014 when he posted about it in his blog ‘Gaviotas y Pardelas‘.
Javi Elorriaga commented:
There is a long-staying individual regularly seen in Ceuta. This might be the same individual. Indeed, the bird in Ceuta and the one in Tarifa where observed in similar periods, and all the records could involve the same individual who likes our area.
Patrick Bergier gave more details about previous records of the species to the North African region (see the comments section below).
Gonçalo Elias commented about two recent records of Pied Crows in Portugal (see the comments section below).
It’s more likely that a few Pied Crows (2 or more??) are present in the area and are moving around between northern Morocco and southern Iberia and as far away as Porto in northern Portugal. However, it’s difficult to confirm this without individually marking these birds by colour rings for example.
Update 2 (subsequent observations):
– Rachid photographed a Pied Crow at the town of Fnideq on 10 October 2015 (photo 4). It was most likely the same individual we saw last March.
– On 2 April 2017, we passed through the landfill and saw the Pied Crow again. It’s now just over two years since we first saw the bird at this site.
Rachid El Khamlichi & Mohamed Amezian
(all photos by Rachid).