Rare observations of Marsh Owl in northernmost Morocco

Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) is represented by an endemic subspecies in Morocco (tingitanus) and it’s Critically Endangered. In the past, the species used to breed in the majority of the marshy areas in northwest Morocco. However, nowadays the northern limit of its breading range is Lower Loukkos, where some pairs still breed in the marshes. Except probably Tahaddart estuary, it disappeared from most of the sites north of Lower Loukkos.

Here we list some rare observations of Marsh Owl north of Lower Loukkos:

  – The species still probably breeds at Tahaddart estuary (south of Tangier) and adjacent areas, but it must be very rare. During several fieldwork missions in Tahaddart area in 2006 and 2007, Abdeljebbar Qninba and his colleagues encountered Marsh Owl only once – in cereal fields in the upstream part of the Oued Ghrifa (also spelt as Oued Gharifa).

  – A bird photographed at Oued Martil on the Mediterranean coast on 16 October 2011 (Rachid El Khamlichi). Rachid saw a distant bird flying while constantly being mobbed by a flock of Western Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula). He was only able to get some records shorts (the three photos grouped together below).

  – A carcass of a road-killed bird found at Larbaa Ayacha on 7 June 2012 (Rachid El Khamlichi). This small village is located on the national road linking Tétouan to Larache, at about 40 Km northeast from Lower Loukkos.

These observations show that at least some Marsh Owls still dispersing north of Lower Loukkos marshes. But is this dispersion of individuals from the species’ stronghold in the Gharb region enough to prevent its total disappearance from the northernmost sites? Unfortunately, the reality in the field says otherwise, because the species is already in big trouble at Lower Loukkos and Marja Zerga.

Read: How to save the Moroccan Marsh Owl from extinction? (written almost three years go, but still relevant).

Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Oued Martil, northern Morocco, 16 Oct. 2011 (Rachid El Khamlichi).
Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Oued Martil, northern Morocco, 16 Oct. 2011 (Rachid El Khamlichi).
Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) road-killed at Larbaa Ayacha, northern Morocco, 7 June 2012 (Rachid El Khamlichi).
Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) road-killed at Larbaa Ayacha, northern Morocco, 7 June 2012 (Rachid El Khamlichi).
Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Lower Loukkos marshes, December 2014 (Imad Yassine).
Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Lower Loukkos marshes, December 2014 (Imad Yassine).
Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Lower Loukkos marshes, December 2014 (Imad Yassine).
Marsh Owl / Hibou du Cap (Asio capensis), Lower Loukkos marshes, December 2014 (Imad Yassine).

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