Cream-colored Coursers live on the oases, dunes and lush valleys of Morocco, an enchanted land where two continents and the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet.
By Rex Graham
Morocco’s unique avian habitats are home not only to African birds, but it also is a rest stop for European migrants that funnel across the Strait of Gibraltar. The courser is one of the few species that has benefited from the slow expansion of the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert.
The courser is a descendent of waders that now runs across the hot sand in northern Africa’s and southwest Asia’s semi-arid landscape. Their feathers? Sand-colored, of course, but with stylish black and white eye stripe accents, and a subtle, blue-grey crown on the back of the head.
Females often nest near one another, and up to 25 coursers are occasionally seen in flocks.
Cream-colored Courser shade of sand
The courser competes for birders’ attention in Morocco with the Northern Bald Ibis, many other glamour species and the lovely Morocco landscape itself. U.K. birders experience environmental and cultural shock after a short plane ride from London.
Birding tours in November take advantage of mildly warm and sunny weather that can sometimes require a jacket when breezes blow in from the Atlantic. Actually, Morocco’s Atlantic shore is a haven for storm-petrels, shearwaters and other seabirds.
Spring birding tours to the base of the Atlas Mountains offer the best opportunities to see Coursers. Be sure to also take in cultural highlights. There are even cooking classes available on tagine, or earthenware cooking.
Morocco Birding Tour Circle
Many birding tours start in Casablanca in the north and ends at Agadir on the Atlantic coast in the south. Other itineraries are circles that begin and end at Casablanca.
The tours use vehicles to reach hotspots where short walks and longer strolls are rewarded with views of Crimson-winged Finches and Atlas Horned Larks to Moussier’s Redstarts and Seebohm’s Wheatears.
Some tours start in Marrakech and veer farther south to Merzouga, a village in the Sahara known for huge sand dunes and camel safaris. Experienced guides are important in Morocco. We recommend companies and organizations with lots of experience.
Some tours combine coastal birding with boat trips out of Agadir and include drives past bird-rich estuaries to the arid Guelmim, “Gateway to the Desert.”