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Namaqua Dove breeds in Morocco for the first time

One year after the observation of two female Namaqua Doves at Safia reserve, the first breeding of the species in Morocco was confirmed this season near Dakhla.

Un an après l’observation de deux femelles de Tourtelette masque dans la réserve de Safia, la première reproduction de l’espèce au Maroc a été confirmée cette saison près de Dakhla.

Male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis), Mijk, near Dakhla, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 14 May 2016 (F. Chevalier)
Breeding male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) at Mijk, near Dakhla, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 14 May 2016 (Franck Chevalier).

Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. During the last decades, the species has undergone a range expansion towards the Middle East where it’s now breeding and has reached as far north as Turkey and Georgia. In Egypt, the expansion was much slower and the first breeding record was only in 2012 (see Hering et al. 2015).

On the western part of the species’ range, the expansion is even much slower. In fact, there have been very few recent records outside the known breeding areas in Mauritania. In Morocco, there have been four records between 1942 and 2011 (all involved single birds). Between 19 and 22 May 2015, two females were photographed at the Safia Acclimatisation Station not far from the Mauritanian border by Abdeljebbar Qninba and the ‘Association Nature Initiative’ (one of the birds had a very short tail, photo below).

Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) at the Safia Acclimatisation Station, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 22 May 2015 (Abdeljebbar Qninba)
Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) at the Safia Acclimatisation Station, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 22 May 2015 (Abdeljebbar Qninba)

In spring 2016, the Namaqua Dove was one of the ‘star birds’ in the Aousserd region (along with the main one which is the Golden Nightjar). Many observations have been recorded between mid-March and mid-May at different sites: Agridak, Mijk, Imlili and near the town of Aousserd (see detailed observations in Chevalier et al. 2016).

This year, the Namaqua Dove was even observed as far north as near Rabat on 14 March (Lisle Gwynn / Tropical Birding Tours).

With all these observations, it was expected that these birds could breed locally and that’s exactly what happened. On 14 May, Franck Chevalier and Mohammed Belhaj observed and photographed a young bird at Mijk and thus documenting the first breeding evidence of the species in Morocco. In mid-May 2016, this nucleus population is formed by at least two males, two females and one juvenile (Chevalier et al. 2016).

With this breeding event, the Namaqua Dove is added to an already diverse avifauna that breed in the region which includes the likes of Black-crowned Finch Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps), African Dunn’s Lark (Eremalauda dunni), Cricket Warbler (Spiloptila clamans) and many other desert birds.

References:

Chevalier, F., Belhaj, M. & Bergier, P. 2016. Premier cas de reproduction de la Tourtelette masquée Oena capensis au Maroc. Go-South Bulletin 13: 82-89.

Hering, J. Barthel, P.H. & Fuchs, E. 2015. Namaqua Doves breeding in southern Egypt in 2012-13. Dutch Birding 37: 98­-102.

Juvenile Namaqua Dove / Tourtelette masquée (Oena capensis), Mijk, near Dakhla, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 14 May 2016 (F. Chevalier.)
Juvenile Namaqua Dove at Mijk, near Dakhla, Western Sahara, southern Morocco, 14 May 2016 (Franck Chevalier.)

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