Significant population of Egyptian Vulture found in Morocco

By | 10 December 2015

Recent observations of the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Morocco become so rare that some authors considered the species on the verge of local extinction as a breeding species. In this context, the observation of 4 birds in spring 2013 and a successful breeding pair near the Tazekka National Park were received with excitement among the Moroccan ornithological community and beyond.

So in June 2014, we set up a self-financed expedition to the Middle Atlas Mountains to search the Egyptian Vultures in the region. During the six-day survey we found new occupied breeding territories and a communal roosting site, the first of its kind in Northwest Africa, that hosted 40 vultures of different ages. The results are summarised in this paper (PDF):

Amezian, M. & El Khamlichi, R. 2016. Significant population of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus found in Morocco. Ostrich 87: 73-76. 

Read also this blog-post: The plight of the Egyptian Vulture and hopes for the future, published in the blog of the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU).

Traduction en français du blog: Les vautours au Maghreb: problèmes, manque d’études…et espoirs.

Decline of the species plus lack of studies:

While it’s true that the species has undergone a decline since decades and most likely disappeared from many Moroccan regions, it should be also noted that there were no studies about this vulture species since decades. So how do we know that the species is very rare without a field work? Is the species really very rare, or there is only no recent data? The short answer is BOTH (=the species has declined but may still occur in some regions but they go unreported, we partially answered this in our paper). Worse still, there are not many amateur birders/wildlife photographers in Morocco that can report the birds and thus generate much needed data about the presence of the species in the breeding areas. Take the example of Algeria, the species has not been studied since late 1980s, and even then it was studied only at the Greater Kabylie (Moali & Gaci 1992), but we know that the species still occur in many regions and this is mainly thanks to observations by amateurs birders. Recently however, there is some interest in studying the species and other raptors by the Algerian National Association of Ornithology among others. Recently we had a conversation with our Algerian colleague Amina Fellous, during the workshop about the “Transboundary conservation of threatened raptors ”, and she agreed that amateur birders do contribute a lot of data about distribution and even new records of raptors in Algeria. We should learn from this experience here in Morocco and start encouraging and involving people in gathering data which sure can only have a positive impact about our knowledge and ultimately there conservation (I know it sound simplistic, but we have a North African proverbe which says: “Drop by drop the river flows“).

Moali, A. & Gaci, B. 1992. Les rapaces diurnes nicheurs en Kabylie (Algérie). Alauda 60: 164–169.

All photos were taken in June 2014 by Rachid, except two (where he is the subject!).

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) at the nest, Middle Atlas, Morocco

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) at the nest, Middle Atlas, Morocco

Adult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Middle Atlas, Morocco

Adult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Middle Atlas, Morocco

Immature Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Middle Atlas, Morocco

Immature Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Middle Atlas, Morocco

Photos the communal roosting site:

Communal roosting site of the Egyptian Vulture, Middle Atlas, Morocco (partial view)

Communal roosting site of the Egyptian Vulture, Middle Atlas, Morocco (partial view)

Communal roosting site of the Egyptian Vulture, Middle Atlas, Morocco (another view on the same cliff)

Communal roosting site of the Egyptian Vulture, Middle Atlas, Morocco (another view on the same cliff)

Videos of the communal roosting site:

Some photos from the expedition:

During the Egyptian Vulture expedition we used 'mobile hotel' with mini-kitchen, mini-fridge and everything, Middle Atlas, June 2014. Here Rachid El Khamlichi was preparing something to eat.

During the Egyptian Vulture expedition we used ‘mobile hotel’ with mini-kitchen, mini-fridge and everything, Middle Atlas, June 2014. Here Rachid El Khamlichi was preparing something to eat.

Mohamed Amezian and the rugged landscape in the background, Middle Atlas, Morocco

Mohamed Amezian and the rugged landscape in the background, Middle Atlas, Morocco.

Rachid El Khamlichi in the Atlas Mountains. Note the immense rugged landscape of this part of Morocco.

Rachid El Khamlichi in the Atlas Mountains. Note the immense rugged landscape of this part of Morocco.

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