Diet of Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in desert area at Hassi El Gara (El Golea, Algeria)

Djilali, K., Sekour, M., Souttou, K., Ababsa, L., Guezoul, O., Denys, C. & Doumandji, S. (2016). Diet of Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus (Pontoppidan, 1763) in desert area at Hassi El Gara (El Golea, Algeria). Zoology and Ecology 26: 159–165. doi: 10.1080/21658005.2016.1184907


The diet of the Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus was analysed in an arid environment in Hassi El Gara located in the southeast of El Golea (Ghardaia, Algeria). The diet was determined by analysing 138 pellets. Our data showed that the diet was dominated by mammals (Chiroptera and Rodentia). Based on relative biomass, birds were the main prey species. Mammals were the second most important prey. Mammals were the major food item throughout the seasons and their contribution to the diet ranged from 50.7% in spring to 73.6% in summer. Birds were the second numerous prey with 8.1% in summer and 29.6% in spring. The dominant prey species was Myotis sp., making up 37.8%. It was followed by Gerbillus nanus (5.4%), Columba livia (4.3%) and Bufo mauritanicus (4.1%).

Negotiating an ecological barrier: crossing the Sahara in relation to winds by common swifts

Åkesson, S., Bianco, G. & Hedenström, A. (2016). Negotiating an ecological barrier: crossing the Sahara in relation to winds by common swifts. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 371: 20150393. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0393


The Sahara Desert is one of the largest land-based barriers on the Earth, crossed twice each year by billions of birds on migration. Here we investigate how common swifts migrating between breeding sites in Sweden and wintering areas in sub-Saharan Africa perform the desert crossing with respect to route choice, winds, timing and speed of migration by analysing 72 geolocator tracks recording migration. The swifts cross western Sahara on a broad front in autumn, while in spring they seem to use three alternative routes across the Sahara, a western, a central and an eastern route across the Arabian Peninsula, with most birds using the western route. The swifts show slower migration and travel speeds, and make longer detours with more stops in autumn compared with spring. In spring, the stopover period in West Africa coincided with mostly favourable winds, but birds remained in the area, suggesting fuelling. The western route provided more tailwind assistance compared with the central route for our tracked swifts in spring, but not in autumn. The ultimate explanation for the evolution of a preferred western route is presumably a combination of matching rich foraging conditions (swarming insects) and favourable winds enabling fast spring migration.

A Common Swift (Apus apus) equipped with a micro data logger that measures light (Susanne Åkesson / Lund University)

A Common Swift (Apus apus) equipped with a micro data logger that measures light (Susanne Åkesson / Lund University).

Map of stopover areas before initiating migration across the Sahara Desert (triangles), stopover areas on passage (filled yellow circles) and stopover or final wintering areas at arrival after crossing the barrier (squares), for different populations of common swifts breeding in north, central and south Sweden as recorded for spring and autumn by miniature geolocators.

Map of stopover areas before initiating migration across the Sahara Desert (triangles), stopover areas on passage (filled yellow circles) and stopover or final wintering areas at arrival after crossing the barrier (squares), for different populations of common swifts breeding in north, central and south Sweden as recorded for spring and autumn by miniature geolocators. Solid lines are connecting routes for birds recorded outside equinox periods, while dashed lines connect starting and endpoints for swifts passing the Sahara during the equinox period. Lines connecting departure, stopover and arrival events simplify the assumed migratory pathway of the birds (Åkesson et al. 2016 – DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0393)


The diversity of wild animals at Fezzan Province (Libya)

Essghaier, M. F. A., Taboni, I. M. & Etayeb, K. S. (2015). The diversity of wild animals at Fezzan Province (Libya). Biodiversity Journal 6(1):  245–252.


Fezzan province (Libya) is a segment of true Sahara, is characterized by diverse habitats that are utilized as shelters and feeding ground for many desert wildlife species. Oases with water table near the surface are the most prominent feature in the Libyan desert. The diversity in habitats resulted in diversity in wildlife, as well as the plant cover (trees and bushes) is the most effective factor for the existence and the abundance of wild animals, in particular bird species. This study observed many species of reptiles, birds and mammals. In the study is also reported the rock hyrax Procavia capensis Pallas, 1766 (Hyracoidea Procaviidae) a rare and endemic species at the area.

Habitat use and distribution of the Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) in the wetland complex of Oued Righ, Algerian Sahara

Nouidjem, Y., Saheb, M., Bensaci, E., Bouzegag, A., Guergueb, E.-Y. & Houhamdi, M. (2015). Habitat use and distribution of the Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea in the wetland complex of Oued Righ (Algerian Sahara). Zoology and Ecology 25(1): 26–33. doi:10.1080/21658005.2014.997995
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Our study conducted from August 2007 to May 2011 in the main wetlands of the Oued Righ complex (Eastern Sahara of Algeria) aimed to study the habitat use and distribution pattern of the Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. As the species was recorded breeding at most sites of the wetland complex, it was given the resident breeder status, which differs from the one it had previously. The maximum number of Ruddy Shelducks (284 individuals) was recorded each year during the winter season (second half of December). The Ruddy Shelduck (60% of population) shows preference for shallow middle-sized salt ponds with a high proportion of open water (e.g. Chott Tindla and Chott Sidi Slimane). No interannual variations were observed in habitat use; moreover, seasonal variations in the use of shallow salt pond habitat may be the outcome of hot and dry climate of this arid region.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Timgad, Batna, Algeria

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Timgad, (W. Batna), north-eastern Algeria. (photo: Raouf Guechi).

Phénologie de la reproduction du Merle noir (Turdus merula) dans une oasis septentrionale de l’Algérie

Adamou, A.-E., Tabibe, R., Kouidri, M., Ouakid, M.-L. & Houhamdi, M. (2014). Phénologie de la reproduction du Merle noir Turdus merula dans une oasis septentrionale de l’Algérie. Alauda 82 (3): 193-202.
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L’étude est réalisée entre 2007 et 2012 dans les palmeraies septentrionales de l’Algérie, sur la reproduction du Merle noir nicheur sur le palmier dattier. Les résultats montrent une faible variation des traits de vie entres les années d’études. La date, la grandeur de ponte et le succès de la reproduction ne sont pas variables avec les saisons de la reproduction. Par contre, les traits des œufs montrent une variation significative entre les années d’études. La hauteur des nids présente aussi cette variation, elle dépasse pour quelques nids les 7m. Selon ce gradient, les couples précoces installent leurs nids au plus haut et investissent moins dans les traits des œufs, et moins dans la grandeur de ponte. Cette dernière est relativement faible par rapport aux populations européennes. Par contre, les nids installés plus haut, compensent par un succès de reproduction plus élevé. La densité des nids indique une relation entre les oasis et les forêts limitrophes et suggère une analyse complémentaire du spectre alimentaire du merle noir dans cet habitat, qui permet de mieux comprendre les modalités de colonisation et de répartition biogéographique de cette espèce.


Breeding phenology of Common Blackbird in palm groves at an oasis in Algeria.

The study was carried out between 2007 and 2012 in the northern palms of Algeria, on the reproduction of Blackbird nesting on date palm. The results show a low variation of life history traits between the years of study. Breeding date, clutch size and reproductive success are not variable with the seasons of reproduction. However, the eggs measurements show a significant variation between years. Nest height also shows this variation, it exceeds the 7m for a few nests. According to this gradient, couples settle their early nests above and invest less in features eggs. However, nests installed above, offset by a higher reproductive success. Clutch size is relatively low compared to the European populations and nest density indicates a similarity between the oasis and the surrounding forests and suggests that further analysis of the spectrum blackbird food in this habitat, to better understand the colonization and the biogeographical distribution of this species.

Nid du Merle noir (Turdus merula) dans les palmeraies de Zibans (Biskra), piémont sud de l’Atlas saharien, Algérie

Nid du Merle noir (Turdus merula) dans les palmeraies de Zibans (Biskra), piémont sud de l’Atlas saharien, Algérie

Annual cycle and migration strategies of Great Reed Warbler as revealed by a geolocator study

Lemke HW, Tarka M, Klaassen RHG, Åkesson M, Bensch S, Hasselquist D & Hansson.B. (2013) Annual Cycle and Migration Strategies of a Trans-Saharan Migratory Songbird: A Geolocator Study in the Great Reed Warbler. PLoS ONE 8(10): e79209. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079209


Recent technological advancements now allow us to obtain geographical position data for a wide range of animal movements. Here we used light-level geolocators to study the annual migration cycle in great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), a passerine bird breeding in Eurasia and wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. We were specifically interested in seasonal strategies in routes and schedules of migration. We found that the great reed warblers (all males, no females were included) migrated from the Swedish breeding site in early August. After spending up to three weeks at scattered stopover sites in central to south-eastern Europe, they resumed migration and crossed the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert without lengthy stopovers. They then spread out over a large overwintering area and each bird utilised two (or even three) main wintering sites that were spatially separated by a distinct mid-winter movement. Spring migration initiation date differed widely between individuals (1-27 April). Several males took a more westerly route over the Sahara in spring than in autumn, and in general there were fewer long-distance travels and more frequent shorter stopovers, including one in northern Africa, in spring. The shorter stopovers made spring migration on average faster than autumn migration. There was a strong correlation between the spring departure dates from wintering sites and the arrival dates at the breeding ground. All males had a high migration speed in spring despite large variation in departure dates, indicating a time-minimization strategy to achieve an early arrival at the breeding site; the latter being decisive for high reproductive success in great reed warblers. Our results have important implications for the understanding of long-distance migrants’ ability to predict conditions at distant breeding sites and adapt to rapid environmental change.

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus (Vitaliy Khustochka on flickr, licence CC-by-nc)

Spatial patterns in North Africa:

The majority of males crossed the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert without stopovers in a flight that exceeded 24 hours in duration, in a geographical window spanning from Tunisia/Algeria in the west to Libya in the east.

In spring, after crossing the Sahara desert, all great reed warbler males stopped just south of the Mediterranean Sea in northeast Algeria and western Tunisia. From the stopover in North Africa most males took off in a north-easterly direction towards Italy and Balkan, which allowed these birds to pass east of the Alps and to return more or less on the same track through Europe as taken in autumn.

A completely unexpected result was that all males spent 1-2 weeks at the end of April or beginning of May in a rather restricted area in north-eastern Algeria and western Tunisia, independent of where along the west–east axis of sub-Saharan Africa they had spent their second part of the winter.

Inferred migration routes, mid-winter movements and stopover sites from geolocator data of male great reed warblers

Inferred migration routes, mid-winter movements and stopover sites from geolocator data of male great reed warblers.
(A) Migration routes and mid-winter movements (blue: autumn; green: spring; yellow: mid-winter).
(B) Stopover sites (stays for more than 36-hours) in autumn (blue) and spring (green), and wintering sites (yellow). Breeding site is indicated (star). Data are for 8 males in autumn and winter, and 6 males in spring. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079209.g001

Biodiversité de l’avifaune aquatique des zones humides sahariennes (Algérie)

Bensaci, E., Saheb, M., Nouidjem, Y., Bouzegag, A., & Houhamdi, M. (2013). Biodiversité de l’avifaune aquatique des zones humides sahariennes: cas de la dépression d’Oued Righ (Algérie). Physio-Géo. [En ligne] (Volume 7). DOI: 10.4000/physio-geo.3198

Résumé :

L’éco-complexe de zones humides de la dépression d’Oued Righ (Sahara septentrional algérien) comporte trois vastes chotts (Sidi Slimane, Chott Melghir et Chott Merouane) d’intérêt international selon la convention de Ramsar et une vingtaine de dépressions qui ne sont en eau que durant les années très pluvieuses tels les Chotts Hamraïa, Tighdidine et Tindla, et deux sites permanents : le lac Ayata et le lac d’Oued Khrouf. Ces milieux aquatiques, répartis entre les wilayas d’El-Oued, de Biskra et d’Ouargla, présentent une grande diversité biologique en raison de leur superficie, leur salinité et leur substrat. Avec une superficie totale de 900000 ha, ces zones humides demeurent très peu étudiées en Algérie et leur rôle biologique et écologique reste encore inconnu.

La diversité de l’avifaune du complexe de zones humides de la dépression d’Oued Righ est très riche et compte 53 espèces appartenant à 15 familles. Ces peuplements sont dominés par le flamant rose Phoenicopterus roseus, le canard souchet Anas clypeata, le tadorne casarca Tadorna ferriginea et la sarcelle d’hiver Anas crecca crecca. L’effectif de certaines espèces peut être important et atteindre 42700 individus comme c’est le cas pour le flamant rose. Certaines espèces sont classées menacées et vulnérables sur la liste rouge de l’UICN (sarcelle marbrée Marmaronetta angustirostris, fuligule nyroca Aythia nyroca.). Le suivi régulier des effectifs de cette avifaune a permis de définir le statut et la phénologie de toutes ces espèces.

Les zones humides de la dépression d’Oued Righ sont exploitées par les oiseaux pour y hiverner, y stationner à l’occasion des migrations, ou s’y reproduire.


The wetlands complex of Oued Righ (Algerian Northern Sahara) includes a series of sites of undeniable importance. This eco-complex contains three very large salt pans (Chott Melghir, Chott Merouane and Chott Sidi Slimane), classified as wetlands of international importance according to the Ramsar convention and other small temporary wetlands such as: Chott Hamraïa, Chott Tighdidine and Chott Tindle, and two permanent sites: Ayata and Oued Khrouf lakes. These aquatic ecosystems divided between wilayas of El-Oued, Biskra and Ouargla, have a great biological diversity due to their size, salinity and substrate. With a total area of 900000 ha, these wetlands remain very poorly studied in Algeria and their biological and ecological roles remain unknown.

The bird fauna of wetlands complex of Oued Righ is very rich, where 53 species representing 15 families were assessed. They are dominated by the Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus, the Shoveler Anas clypeata, the Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferriginea, and the Teal Anas crecca crecca. Some species were observed with relatively large numbers (the Greater Flamingo, 42700) and other species are listed as endangered and vulnerable following the IUCN Red List such as: Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, Ferruginous duck Aythya nyroca. Regular monitoring of this bird fauna allowed as defining the status and phenology of these species.

Overall, the wetlands of Oued Righ depression are exploited as wintering grounds, stopover during migration journeys and breeding sites for several waterbirds species.

Lac d'Oued Khrouf

Lac d’Oued Khrouf. [Photo: E. Bensaci, 10 juin 2010]