The nearest breeding populations of the Western Reef Eegret (Egretta gularis) to Northwest Africa are located in coastal West Africa (nominate subspecies) and in the Red Sea (subspecies schistacea).
On 17 July 2018, a dark-morph Western Reef Egret was observed in the Mekhada marches, a Ramsar site located in the wilaya of El Tarf, northeast Algeria (see photo). The bird stayed there until mid-August. This is the first known record of the species for Algeria.
In Morocco, the species has been observed more frequently during the last few years although its’ still a rarity. There is even a probable case of hybridization between a long-staying bird with a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) at Essaouira islands in 2010 (Qninba et al. 2011). The birds seen in Morocco, as one can guess from the geographical proximity, are from the nominate subspecies.
In Tunisia, the species has also been recorded since decades. At least one bird was identified as belonging to the schistacea subspecies. In 1993, a dark-morph Western Reef Egret of the nominate subspecies paired with a Little Egret and successfully raised four young at the saltmarshes of Thyna, Sfax. This bird remained at the site and bred again with Little Egrets in 1996, 1998 and 2002 (Grussu et al. 2008). As we have seen, both subspecies have been recorded in Tunisia; however, the majority of the other birds not identified to subspecies level probably belong to schistacea.
What about the subspecies identification of this bird? The thinner bill probably suggests the gularis subspecies. Comments welcome!
This observation is published in the latest issue of Alauda journal:
Telailia, S. Boutabia, L. & Beddek, M. 2018. Première observation de l’Aigrette à gorge blanche Egretta gularis en Algérie. Alauda 86: 319-320.
See this blog-post ‘Probable breeding of Western Reef Heron at Essaouira, Morocco’ for the PDFs of the references mentioned in the text.