The status and recent breeding performance of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita population on the Atlantic coast of Morocco

Authors


*Corresponding author.
Email: chris.bowden@rspb.org.uk

Abstract

The main wild population of the Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita breeds on the Atlantic coast of Morocco in the Agadir region. This paper describes the numbers of breeding pairs over the last two decades, the recent breeding performance, the causes of egg and chick losses and their conservation implications. Since 1980 there has been no overall decline in numbers with, over the last 5 years, 59–74 pairs breeding and a peak prebreeding population of around 220 birds. In contrast with the now extinct Northern Bald Ibis populations in Turkey and elsewhere in Morocco, the birds are present in the Agadir region throughout the year and do not appear to migrate from the area outside the breeding season. Breeding performance is highly variable from one year to the next but does not appear to be related to rainfall in the vicinity of the colonies as has been reported elsewhere. It is suggested that coastal fogs in this region may buffer the adverse impacts of low rainfall and may in part account for the year-round residency of the birds. The main causes of breeding failures have been loss of eggs to predators and, most importantly, poor chick survival as a result of starvation and predation. Conservation action to date has focused on reducing the negative influences on breeding success but it is recognized that for such a long-lived bird adult survival is also likely to be an important limiting factor on the population size.

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