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Status of White-Breasted Cormorant and Kelp gull in Marocco (1 Viewer)

Hi everyone,

I am planning a trip to Marocco and reading tons of trips/blogs/articles ecc. I have a couple of points that I cannot solve myself.

The White-Breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus) it is now treated as a separate species from the IOC.
I noticed that is present almost ONLY in the reports from "Limosa Holidays" (correct me if I am wrong).
Why nobody else sees them? (If I understand the issue correctly there is no agreement about them being definitely lucidus...given the possibility of hybridization).
How can I recognise them from the White-NECKED Cormorant?(Phalacrocorax carbo maroccanus)
What criteria does the guide use in his tours?


Second question:
What is the status of the Kelp Gull in south Marocco at the moment? I read the great articles about the discovery of the Great Black Backed Gull (GBBG) colony at khnifiss national parc. And I read many sightings until the latest update of 2 individuals seen few days ago. http://www.magornitho.org/2017/03/kelp-gulls-akhfenir-southern-morocco/

In the cited report there is no mention of GBBGs at all!! Did they disappear? Plus the picture provided in the mention report does not look 100% Kelp to me because of the not completely black back and the not so bulbous beaks (although most features look good).

Is there some article dealing with the the differences, genetic and morphological) between Kelp and GBBG? I found a lot of "outdated" stuff but nothing from the past 2 years. Is there still a colony of GBBGs in south marocco?

Thanks a lot for any help!
And thanks to whoever uploaded material about birds in Marocco, really great stuff out there.

Cheers

piè


PS= I do not want to start a discussion about what is a species. I know is a complicated concept and for my personal definition none of the mention example would be a "good" species. I just want to know which is the current agreement about the mentioned taxon in Marocco since I follow the IOC for my personal list.
 

Maffong

Well-known member
The status of both species is unclear, as you've noticed yourself. Both cases are difficult and might not be possible to be solved completely.

Concerning the Cormorants we had a similar discussion on the WP Big Year Thread

Today I came across this information
RE the discussion around White-breasted Cormorant, this is what Dominic Mitchell writes in the new Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. An Annotated Checklist
Quote:
Breeds coastal N Mauritania, probably intergrading with maroccanus Great Cormorant in S Morocco. Vagrant Belgium*, Cape Verde Is (possibly formerly resident), Egypt*, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Yemen; this species or maroccanus Great Cormorant also vagrant Malta

While trying to find out, what the asterisks link to, I stumbled upon this Article (in french)
https://www.researchgate.net/publica...tique_marocain

HBW Alive describes the subspecies this way:
maroccanus much as nominate but perhaps less glossy, with white of lower head extending farther back, and that of throat runs down foreneck sometimes to upper breast, usually looking intermediate between nominate and lucidus, while extension of facial skin variable but usually nearer carbo or intermediate; lucidus very like maroccanus, perhaps bluer in gloss, white on foreneck usually reaches mid-breast, sometimes further, but much variation, facial skin at base of mandible and on gular pouch during courtship dark grey to dusky olive, rather than yellowish, and immature often contrastingly white on underparts except dark outer thighs;

However I'm not sure how useful that info is in the field as I haven't had the possibility to test it, yet.


Now to the Kelp Gulls:
Recently the WP Big Year birders recorded some Kelp Gulls (which look pretty pure to me). However some sources suggest that hybridization might be happening between Kelp and GBBG
http://www.magornitho.org/2011/03/cape-gull-gbbgull-khnifiss/

Again I don't know how many of the birds can be safely ID'ed

I hope this helps

Maffong
 
Thanks Maffong,

Regarding the Cormorants:
I had not read the HBW Alive description...it's full of "perhaps", "large variation", "often"...I really wonder how they are recognized!!!
I also cannot find studies about segregation of populations in mixed colonies. They look like clinal variations (Of course I would be happy to be proved wrong!).

Unfortunately I do not read French, if someone could summarize it...but I think it says it is not possible to separate the 2 species/subspecies.

Regarding the Gulls:
Yes, the Kelp gull in the picture you mention looks perfect! But it was recorded far south of the mentioned lagoon. I really wonder where the GBBG ended up and why the latest observation is considered sure with no apparent discussion...(again I would be happy to know what are the characteristic that make it 100% sure!).

Thanks again,
at least I know I am not the only one confused ;)

cheers
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Facial skin seems the best part of the HBW description, probably visible in good photos. There should be a good study for someone to look for that in colonies.

Niels
 
Facial skin seems the best part of the HBW description, probably visible in good photos. There should be a good study for someone to look for that in colonies.

Hi Niels, even if facial skin might be slightly consistently different I do not think is a proof of lack of gene flow or any kind of separation!
At the moment I really do not see the basis for the split...or at least a morphological way to identify the 2 "species"!


Thanks for the link @markm!
That is what I was referring, thanks.
So...where the GBBGs and hybrids ended up? Is the small colony still there? hybridized?? Died out?


Good migration to everyone :)
 

Acrocephalus

Well-known member
Status of Kelp Gull in Morocco

I think there is some confusion not only about the status of Kelp Gull and Great Black-backed Gull, but also about the sequence of events in southern Morocco.

It all started with the observations leading to this paper:

Bergier, P., Zadane, Y. & Qninba, A. (2009). Cape Gull: a new breeding species in the Western Palearctic. Birding World 22: 253–256.

But later observations by different birders and re-analysis of previously obtained photographed by Olof Jönsson showed that the birds considered to be Kelp Gulls were in fact Great Black-backed Gulls. As the title of his paper shows, Jönsson found that the GBBG is the breeding species at Khnifiss lagoon (and also the most abundant ‘big gull species’ at the site, Kelp Gull is a rarity and there is no firm evidence of its breeding).

Jönsson, O. (2011). Great Black-backed Gulls breeding at Khnifiss lagoon, Morocco and the status of Cape Gull in the Western Palearctic. Birding World 24: 68–76.

So, what about the situation now?

The GBBGs still breeding at the lagoon up to this date. They are not cited in the reports because most likely European birders see them at home. For example, Arnoud van den Berg saw 6 GBBGs just a few days ago. Here are the records entered at observation.org since 2011 (only khnifiss is shown).

The Kelp Gulls become rarer again at khnifiss after the paper of Jönsson. Not recorded there since years, but seen at Akhfenir (just to the north of the lagoon) in 2012, 2015, 2016 and again in February (Big Year WP team) and Marsh 2017 (Robert Swann). Here are the records entered at observation.org since 2011 for the whole country.

The hybrids: I am not aware of any records since the discussion about this subject in 2011 (summarized in the updates of this blog). And yes, I agreed with Maffong that all recent Kelp Gulls are pure (same for GBBGs). The birds in the report you cited didn’t look 100% Kelp to you because you relied more on the non-diagnostic features (black back and bill). Right click to see a much larger photo, and focus on the diagnostic features.

For the identification, it should be easy (for the adults at least) if you see the tips of the primaries and/or the white trailing edge along the secondaries and primaries (plus other helpful features like leg colour).
Hybrids should not pose problem. According to the current situation (Yellow-legged Gull and GBBG breeding for sure, Kelp Gull not so sure), if there are any hybrids, we can assume it’s between the two breeding species and not with the Kelp.

As for the differences, the Kelp Gull and GBBG are not even closely related. Kelp Gull is related to Lesser Black-backed Gull and Heuglin’s Gull (split by some). See the Laridae tree and the resources behind it.

Enjoy your visit and please focus on the Kelp Gulls, GBBGs are there to stay.

p.s. Don't forget to search the Pied Crow reported at the lagoon last January (or ask the locals).
 
Hi Mohamed,

Thank you for your nice post! Awesome!

I just would like to clarify 2 points:

The Laridae tree that you cite are outdated. The much more detailed analysis of the paper reported below shows that current and past gene flow results in the impossibility to resolve the tree (hence saying who the closer relative is).

Sonsthagen, S. A., Wilson, R. E., Chesser, R. T., Pons, J. M., Crochet, P. A., Driskell, A., & Dove, C. (2016). Recurrent hybridization and recent origin obscure phylogenetic relationships within the white-headed gull (Larus sp.) complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 103, 41–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2016.06.008


2) Do you have a reference that say that the "tips of the primaries and/or the white trailing edge along the secondaries and primaries" is the most important character? (btw both not visible in the cited pictures)


Thanks again for clarifying the current status of the gulls!!!!
Do you have any information about the cormorants?

All the best,
 

Acrocephalus

Well-known member
Welcome! Thanks for the recent paper, the relationship between these gulls is indeed complex. But the point is that the two gulls we are discussing here are not the closest to each other, which means (if I can say so) their ID in the adult plumage at least in very easy.

Do you have a reference that say that the "tips of the primaries and/or the white trailing edge along the secondaries and primaries" is the most important character? (btw both not visible in the cited pictures)

You can see these two features mentioned several times in the paper of Jönsson mentioned above.

Concerning the ID of Robert Swann’s birds, the white tips of the primaries are clearly much smaller than the white tip on P10 and the mirror of P9 found in GBBGs seen in the same silhouette. Consider also this: Robert’s birds are almost identical to this bird found at Agadir in 2016. We know that the Agadir bird is a Kelp Gull because a different photo in flight shows both main features: broad white trailing edge along the secondaries and the inner primaries AND small mirror only on P10 is visible.

Compare with the GBBGs: standing birds here (note the much larger white tips on primaries), birds in flight or extended wings here (note both large white tips AND narrow white trailing edge along the secondaries but broken along inner primaries).
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
In March 2009 we had a 1st w GBBGull near Dhakla.

(We also saw and ticked Kelp Gulls at Khniffis, like others at the time. However, being unaware of adult GBBG's there, all that I can say with certainty is that the one bird I did see well-ish (there would have been heat haze etc) actually had the wrong leg colour (but good for a GBBGull) ... not sure about the others in our group).
 

Acrocephalus

Well-known member
White-breasted Cormorant in Morocco

Do you have any information about the cormorants?

I can’t add more than what is already said above by Maffong (and also in other discussions in this forum, for example posts #786 to #788 here). We like it or not, the problem is primarily taxonomic:

- Should lucidus be split from carbo, and if yes
- Should maroccanus be treated as a subspecies of lucidus or carbo?

Regarding the Cormorants:
I had not read the HBW Alive description...it's full of "perhaps", "large variation", "often"...I really wonder how they are recognized!!!
I also cannot find studies about segregation of populations in mixed colonies. They look like clinal variations (Of course I would be happy to be proved wrong!).

Unfortunately I do not read French, if someone could summarize it...but I think it says it is not possible to separate the 2 species/subspecies.

The paper essentially says that lucidus phenotype can be found as north as Oued Massa, but the more you go to the south this form becomes the majority. Intermediate forms occur as north as Essaouira and also in southern populations. As you guessed, it’s not easy to mark the lines between the two forms. See also the summary of Maffong in this post.

In conclusion, we have neither the correct names (taxonomy) nor definitive ID criteria (to separate lucidus from maroccanus).
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Talking of subspecies, there's also the Mauritanian Grey Heron, monicae to possiby look out for (and the Spoonbill, but don't if that ranges).
 

Frenchy

Well-known member
Just to add to this, I saw this adult Kelp Gull on the dump just south of Akhfennir in early April 2017. At least this bird is still present this year...
 

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Hi everyone,
despite extensive effort I could not find any Kelp gull during my visit at the dump just south of Akhfennir and Khenifiss lagoon in late Aprile.
I did see 3 pairs of Great Black backed gulls at the lagoon, so those are still present...

Thanks Frenchy for your documentation!!!
I bet it was not easy to find among the hundreds/thousands of gulls!!


Best and good luck to anyone who tries.
 
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