Barbary macaques and vultures at Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco

By MaghrebOrnitho | 30 May 2015

Jbel Moussa is known as a good point for observing bird migration crossing the Strait of Gibraltar between Africa and Europe. But it’s also known for its colony of the endangered Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus). The macaques inhabit the inaccessible parts of Jbel Moussa, but can easily be observed from the western and southern sides of the mountain. If there are raptors around, especially the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), we can hear the macaques alarming so the group can hide before one of the babies is taken by the eagle.

Unlike the Barbary macaques that can be seen near some touristic places in the Middle Atlas where they get close to people and ask for food, watching the macaques at Jbel Moussa in their natural setting is a real treat (Note: the behavior of some macaque groups in the Middle Atlas was started by people in the first place who are feeding a wild, endangered and protected species).

The photos captured yesterday by Rachid El Khamlichi show the macaques with their newborn babies actively feeding on wild plants.

For the vultures, see below the macaques’ photos. Enjoy!

Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus): watchful mother and its baby, Jbel Moussa, Morocco

Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus): watchful mother and its baby, Jbel Moussa, Morocco.

Adult Barbary macaques with their babies actively feeding on the steep rocks of Jbel Moussa, Morocco

Adult Barbary macaques with their babies actively feeding on the steep rocks of Jbel Moussa.

Adult Barbary macaques feeding and the newborn baby learning!, Jbel Moussa, Morocco

Adult Barbary macaques feeding and the newborn baby learning!, Jbel Moussa, Morocco.

Adult Barbary macaque carrying its baby on the back, Jbel Moussa, Morocco.

Adult Barbary macaque carrying its baby on the back, Jbel Moussa, Morocco.

Barbary macaque enjoying wild fruits and watching the photographer, Jbel Moussa, Morocco

Barbary macaque enjoying wild fruits and watching the photographer, Jbel Moussa, Morocco

Migratory vultures at Jbel Moussa:

About 3 weeks ago, we shared with you photos taken by camera trap showing the pristine spring where the vultures are drinking and bathing. Today we will share with you some places where they feed and rest/roost at Jbel Moussa.

Feeding places:

On 23 May 2015, there were at least some 200 Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) and one Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli). The vultures were first seen kettling around and then started heading to a place where we knew there is a carcass of a wild boar (Sus scrofa). A local villager informed us earlier about this carcass and we set up a camera trap in anticipation of the vultures. We were not disappointed. See the following three photos. (Read: Vulture restaurant experiment at Jbel Moussa).

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) and Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) captured by camera trap at a carcass, Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 23 May 2015

Vultures feeding on a carcass captured by camera trap at a carcass at Jbel Moussa on 23 May 2015. The Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) on the right of the photo is darker and slightly smaller than the Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus).

Vultures feeding on a carcass of wild boar, Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 23 May 2015.

Vultures feeding on a carcass of wild boar, Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 23 May 2015.

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) landing at the carcass, Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 23 May 2015

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) landing at the carcass, Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 23 May 2015.

Resting/roosting places:

As we have seen, Jbel Moussa is the site where the vultures can feed and drink during the northward migration period. The mountain is also used by the vultures for resting (during the day) and roosting during the night. Jbel Moussa is very important especially when there is bad weather conditions on the Strait of Gibraltar forcing the vultures to stay for longer. Here are some diurnal resting places for vultures. (Much better photo of vultures’ roost at Jbel Moussa).

Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) resting at Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 29 May 2017.

Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) resting at Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 29 May 2017. During northward migration, vultures can stay here for several days until the weather is good enough for them to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.

The local cattle and vultures at Jbel Moussa, Morocco.

The local cattle and vultures at Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 29 May 2015.

Subadult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 29 May 2015.

Subadult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Jbel Moussa, Morocco, 29 May 2015.

Resident birds:

Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus) is very common in the valley west of Jbel Moussa. Both Yellow-billed (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and Red-billed Choughs (P. pyrrhocorax) are abundant as well. And there is a little surprise of a local bird not seen here since decades, it’s the Levaillant’s Woodpecker. A nest of this species was found in the valley on 25 May 2015. See this short note:

El Khamlichi, R. & Sarrión Salado, J. A. 2015. Nouveau cas de reproduction du Pic de Levaillant (Picus vaillantii) au Jbel Moussa, Tangérois. Go-South Bull. 12: 55–56. PDF

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