New records of Moltoni’s Warbler in Algeria

By MaghrebOrnitho | 21 December 2019

The recent split of the Moltoni’s Warbler (Sylvia subalpina) as a full species is widely adopted by different taxonomic authorities. However, until the end of the 20th century, the Moltoni’s Warbler wasn’t even considered as a valid subspecies of the Subalpine Warbler. For some details, read: “the evolution of Moltoni’s Warbler from an invalid ‘subspecies’ to a full species”.

Because of its history, the Moltoni’s Warbler is still relatively a rarity in Northwest Africa, but it should be more regular in Tunisia and Algeria. While the species has already been recorded in both Tunisia and Morocco, the situation in Algeria has been less clair until recently. Why?

In the ‘Birds of Algeria’ (Isenmann and Moali 2000), the authors wrote in the Subalpine Warbler section that “a large numbers of European migrants (S. c. cantillans and S. c. albistriata) are seen during both autumn and spring migration”. There is no mention of Moltoni’s Warbler in the text, although it surely migrates through Algeria. Without a doubt, the reason was because until the end of the 20th century, this taxon was still not considered as a valid subspecies as mentioned earlier.

After the Moltoni’s Warbler turned out more than just a valid subspecies, but a full species of its own, the first record for Algeria was uncovered by Lars Svensson during his research on the species: a bird collected at Tamanrasset on 29 Dec 1953 and hosted at Alexander König Museum in Bonn (see the comment of Bram Piot below).

New records in the south-east

Between 7 and 14 April 2019, Alex Viechec and Karim Haddad recorded more than 10 Moltoni’s Warblers (males and females) at El Borma in the region of Ouargla (Algerian Sahara, near the border with Tunisia). A short note detailing these observations was published recently in the journal Alauda.

While the phonological status of the species in the country still needs to be studied, these initial observations already show the potential.

Viechec, A. & Haddad, K. 2019. Nouvelles observations de la Fauvette de Moltoni Sylvia subalpina en Algérie. Alauda 87 (4): 346-347.

Moltoni’s Warbler / Fauvette de Moltoni (Sylvia subalpina), El Borma, Ouargla, Algerian Sahara, 7 April 2019 (Alex Viechec)
Moltoni’s Warbler / Fauvette de Moltoni (Sylvia subalpina), El Borma, Ouargla, Algerian Sahara, 7 April 2019 (Alex Viechec).

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One thought on “New records of Moltoni’s Warbler in Algeria

  1. Bram Piot

    I haven’t read the paper yet but it certainly looks like the authors overlooked some references. The statement that there are no known records from Algeria is incorrect: there’s a confirmed museum specimen from 1953, identified by Lars Svensson, more precisely from Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, on 29 Dec 1953 (ZFKB 54412, A. König Museum, Bonn). This is mentioned in Svensson 2013: Subalpine Warbler variation and taxonomy (British Birds) though without any supporting details, but full details given in: Piot, B. & Blanc, J.F. 2017. Moltoni’s Warbler Sylvia subalpina in Senegal and West Africa. Malimbus 39: 37-43..

    The above comment aside, it makes sense that the vast majority of Moltoni’s Warblers migrate through Algeria – some may even overwinter – given that the main wintering grounds are thought to be in northern Nigeria and probably Niger.

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