Very few quantitative data existed for the spring migration of birds across the Sahara desert. Observations covering 105 days in spring 1963–66 were made at Defilia, on the extreme northern fringe of the desert in southeast Morocco. The physical features and climate of the area are described, with brief reference to neighbouring desert zones. The birds recorded are listed in weekly or part-weekly totals, followed by subspecific and other comments on selected species.
The movements of migrants are summarized, together with the effects of adverse winds on migration; very bad weather along the northern desert fringe may contribute to the late arrival of some species in the British Isles (and presumably elsewhere in Europe) in spring by causing delays and heavy mortality. Most visible migration was northeastward or eastward, but substantial westward movements of hirundines took place.
Comparison is made with migration through other areas in Morocco and Algeria, both from existing literature and from previously unpublished data, which provide evidence of broad-front migration across the entire width of the Moroccan Sahara. Birds recorded in northwest Algeria in 1966 are listed, together with notes on physical features, climate and field observations. Many terns and waders were recorded at Daiat Tchiour, including some predominantly coastal species, which suggests that the latter were migrating on a great-circle track from winter quarters in West Africa across the Sahara to their breeding grounds in Siberia.
Recoveries of ringed birds are discussed; some of these, together with records of species well west of their normal migratory range, suggest that birds may be subject to lateral displacement by winds when crossing the Sahara, leading to considerable annual variation in species and numbers of birds recorded on the northern desert edge, even in the same place.