Breeding range expansion of Black-headed Gull in Morocco

By MaghrebOrnitho | 23 March 2016

The first proven breeding of Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) in Africa was found at an islet of Barrage Al-Massira in 2002 (Radi et al. 2004; Thévenot et al. 2004). Soon after, the species started to colonise other wetlands in Morocco and some sites in Algeria and Tunisia as well.

The following sites is where the Black-headed Gull breed (or attempted to breed) in Morocco outside the well-established colony of Barrage Al-Massira. They are cited chronologically:

Lower Loukkos wetland:

The species was discovered breeding at the paddy fields of Lower Loukkos in June 2008 (Qninba et al. 2008).

Sebkha Zima, Marrakech region:

Breeding recorded at this site in 2010 (Mohamed Radi).

Smir marshes:

Breeding attempts (mating and attending nests) observed at Smir marshes in 2011, see photo 2 (R. El Khamlich & M. Amezian).

Sidi Moussa-Oualidia wetlands:

First breeding record of Black-headed Gull at this site was discovered in 2013 (Eric Alblas & M. Amezian). I went back to the area in May 2014 and conducted a detailed search in the marches and found several birds nesting.

In June 2014, as part of volunteering work with GREPOM to study the Andalusian Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus), I with Carlos Gutiérrez, Ruth García Gorria and Ernesto Gomez Alvarez visited the breeding site and found that the Black-headed Gulls already had checks as the adults were very aggressive towards us when we approached their colony (photo 1).

Also in 2014, GOMAC members found the colony during their visit to the site.

In late April 2015, 59 breeding pairs were found by Xurxo Piñeiro. He also observed mating near Eljadida, including a Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) paired with a Black-headed Gull.

Daya Ouled Bounayeje, Jorf Lasfar:

On 16 June 2016, Ruth Garcia Gorria visited a small wetland east of Jorf Lasfar called Daya Ouled Bounayeje and recorded a minimum of 80 Black-headed Gulls with chicks (photo 3).

Two weeks earlier (2 June), Benoït Maire had visited the same site and counted about 70 adults, 12 recently fledged nestlings and 7 occupied nests.

References:

  • Qninba, A., Rguibi Idrissi, H., Himmi, O., Benhoussa, A., El Agbani, M. A. & Thévenot, M. 2008. Nouveaux cas de nidification d’oiseaux dans le complexe de zones humides du Bas Loukkos (Nord-Ouest du Maroc). Bull. Inst. Sci., Rabat, section Sciences de la Vie 30: 45-50.
  • Radi, M., Qninba, A., Dakki, M. & Thévenot, M. 2004. Nidification de la Mouette rieuse Larus ridibundus et de la Sterne hansel Sterna nilotica dans le lac de barrage d’Al Massira (Maroc central). Alauda 72: 53-58.
  • Thévenot, M., Radi, M., Qninba, A. & Dakki, M. 2004. First proven breeding record of the Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus in Africa. Alauda 72: 59-61.

I am preparing a short note summarising these unpublished breeding records.

Many thanks to Ruth and Benoït for the recent observations and to all previous observers as well.

Black-headed Gull / Mouette rieuse (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at the breeding colony, Sidi Moussa lagoon, Morocco, 20 June 2014

Black-headed Gull / Mouette rieuse (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at the breeding colony, Sidi Moussa lagoon, 20 June 2014 (Carlos Gutiérrez Expósito)

Black-headed Gull / Mouette rieuse (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at nest, Smir marches, Morocco

Black-headed Gull / Mouette rieuse (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at nest, Smir marches, 29 May 2011 (Rachid El Khamlichi)

Adult Black-headed Gulls with chicks and Black-winged Stilts, Daya Ouled Bounayeje, east of Jorf Lasfar, 16 June 2016 (Ruth Garcia Gorria).

Adult Black-headed Gulls with chicks and Black-winged Stilts, Daya Ouled Bounayeje, east of Jorf Lasfar, 16 June 2016 (Ruth Garcia Gorria).

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