House Bunting breeding at the Casbah of Algiers. This is first observation of the species on the Mediterranean coast of Algeria.
The House Bunting (Emberiza sahari) is a widely distributed species across North Africa from Morocco to western Libya. It’s also patchily distributed in the Sahara from Mauritania to Chad.
Although the species can be found in rocky habitats far from any human settlements, it’s often seen around human habitations especially in North Africa. Because of this anthropophilic lifestyle (living near humans), the species is wrongly considered as ‘sacred’ by some authors.
Since the second half of the 20th century, the species started to expand its range northward across Northwest Africa. However, this expansion is more remarkable in Morocco where the species is now well established in many cities in the extreme north-west (such as Larache, Tangier, Tétouan and M’diq). The species even reached Jbel Moussa and Ceuta on the Strait of Gibraltar (However, the breeding is not yet confirmed at the later localities).
The northward expansion of the species in Algeria and Tunisia has also been ongoing since decades, but probably more slowly than in Morocco.
The House Bunting reaching the Mediterranean coast
During a visit to the upper Casbah of Algiers on 23 March 2017, Riadh Moulaï’s attention was drawn to the characteristic songs and calls of the House Bunting. Following this first sound contact, many individuals were observed in various places in the upper Casbah and beyond: Soustara district, Bab Djeddid, Boulevard Mohamed Taleb and around the Sidi-Abderrahmane Mosque (Abderrahmane Arbadji Street). The House Bunting observed at the upper Casbah appeared as numerous as the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) present on the same site.
The House Bunting has also been observed in other Algerian northern cities such as Bordj Bou Arréridj and Tissemsilt (photo below).
These observations were recently published in the journal Alauda:
Moulaï, R. 2019. Expansion du Bruant du Sahara Emberiza sahari dans le nord de l’Algérie. Alauda 87 (3): 258-259.