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This rare Bald Ibis, whose population is endangered, made its reappearance in Sidi Kaouki south of Essaouira a few weeks ago. About twenty of these rare birds occupy the rocks and the back of the beach.
The Bald Ibis was once widespread across Central Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It is now confined to Morocco, in the Souss Massa National Park, and to the centre of Syria where a small colony of a few couples and seven young birds was discovered in 2002.
The Bald Ibis is now returning in strength in Morocco thanks to a reintroduction program launched by the RSPB in favour of Birdlife International that helps the Souss Massa National Park in water and forestry affairs. The bird population has increased by 15 couples since 2002.
This big beautiful bird can have a 135cm wingspan; not too shy, one can get close enough to it. The adult bird has an unfeathered red face, a long red bill curving downward, red legs, a wispy ruff on its hind neck and purplish spots on its shoulders and on the top of its wings. The plumage covering its body is of a bluish purple with bronze-green iridescence. The tail is longer too and leaning downward at the end. The bird lives in barren or semi barren hollow habitats using cliff ledges and gorges to breed, feeding on animals in the adjoining fields or along rivers and streams. It breeds on coastal cliff ledges too.
These birds feed and sleep in flocks: pecking the ground with their long curved bill or probing cracks and crevices they look for insects like grasshoppers, locusts or beetles and for small lizards, scorpions, frogs or fish. They sleep and breed on cliffs close to running water or to the sea. The western migratory population spreads out to the South after breeding but a lot of these birds hibernate in Morocco like our local colony.
Our ibis nests in colonies of between 5 to 40 couples; the nest is built on a loose base made up of branches, twigs and stems and sometimes bits of paper. Lined with grass, it is placed on a cliff ledge or in a cave.
The female bird lays 2 to 4 eggs between March and April. The hatching period lasts between 24 to 28 days. The downy chicks have greyish brown plumage on top and lighter plumage underneath. Their feathers grow in about 43 to 47 days and they reach sexual maturity at the age of three.