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Birds of the Western Sahara

Birds of the Western Sahara

A little while ago I was in the Western Sahara looking for a new cat species: Sand Cat! Although searching for the cat mostly means going out at night, naturally we also went out during the day. Birding is namely mostly done during the day and less during the night. There aren’t a lot of birds in the Sahara but the birds that do live here are top notch! Many birders get very happy when they see these birds and I was no different.

The prettiest are the larks of the desert. The Greater Hoopoe-lark was my main wish species. A very large lark with a long hoopoe like bill and striking white wings when it flies, naturally a bird to dream about! Luckily it turned out not to be that hard and even allowed itself to be pictured nicely.

A different lark that was very high on my Wishlist was the Temminck’s Horned Lark. We do have Horned Larks in the Netherlands and they are also a much desired species. In this area they look different however, where a normal Horned Lark has yellow, this one has white.

The Greater Short-toed Lark was not a new species for me but it’s still nice to see the bird up close.

The Bar-tailed Lark was a new one though. I had seen Desert Lark and the Bar-tailed Lark is a tinier and more elegantly build lark.

Black-crowned Sparrow Lark is quite a mouthful and also an appealing lark of the desert. I hadn’t expected this bird, but it turned out to be quite easy

A Thekla’s Lark doesn’t differ much from a Crested Lark, but it is still nice when it suddenly hangs loudly singing above the car.

The lark that is the most rare of the bunch is however Dunn’s Lark and that lark turned out to be the one to have itself the best photographed. A nice soft evening sunshine, up close, awesome!

A different family of birds that is at least as appealing as the larks are the wheatears. Of course the Desert Wheatear was present, the males are beautifully coloured. Also a White-crowned Wheatear was very nice. The species that I hadn’t seen before was the Red-rumped Wheatear. Luckily I ran into one and even a beautiful male! Sadly it didn’t let me get as close as I had hoped, but it is still a nice bird!

Desert Wheatear

White-crowned Wheatear

Red-rumped Wheatear

Finally there are the birds that do not have their whole family with them in the Sahara but are all very nice individuals. One bird I had never seen before was the Cream-coloured Courser. I wasn’t too optimistic about my chances of seeing one, but that turned out to be very easy. A few birds even let themselves get pictured in a nice soft evening sunshine close to the road. Although it is difficult to make a choice, this might be my most favourite bird of the trip.

The other bird I hoped to see was the Cricket Warbler. A very local speciality so you can’t turn home without having seen one! He turned out to be more difficult than I had thought but when I spend one hour really searching for it on the last evening it was easy enough.

Great Grey Shrikes make most birders happy. In the Sahara there is a subspecies that is also called the Desert Great Grey Shrike. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of it for the whole week, but on the last evening I suddenly encountered one that didn’t fly away. Success at last!

A Desert Sparrow is another typical Saharan specialty. Luckily they weren’t that hard, especially the male is a lot different than our own House Sparrow. A nice little bird!

I’ll finish this post with two larger birds. First the Long-legged Buzzard, again a specialty of the desert. Here is a picture of it in its habitat, the bird didn’t let me closer anyway.

A Brown-necked Raven might not be the most exciting species from the desert but it’s really part of it. That’s why I also snapped a picture of that one!


Want to read more about our adventures with the Sand Cat? Click here!

For the results of our nocturnal searches, click here!

For some culture from the Western Sahara, click here!


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