Western Sahara

Hoopoe Upupa epops ©Nigel Blake Website
Birding Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a territory of North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria in the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 km2. It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The largest city is El Aaiún (Laâyoune), which is home to over half of the population of the territory, the latter estimated at just over 382,000.Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony. The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement (and government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR) dispute control of the territory.

Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, with the remainder under the control of the Polisario/SADR, backed by Algeria.

Western Sahara’s economy is centred around nomadic herding, fishing, and phosphate mining. Most food for the urban population is imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. The government has encouraged citizens to relocate to the territory by giving subsidies and price controls on basic goods. These heavy subsidies have created a state-dominated economy in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara, with the Moroccan government as the single biggest employer.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 207

    (As at September 2018)

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
  • African Bird Club

    From an ornithological viewpoint, we have considered Morocco to include the geographic area of Western Sahara. Although there are proposals to hold a referendum at some future time on independence for Western Sahara, Morocco claims and administers it at present…
  • West African Ornithological Society

    West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.

Abbreviations Key

  • IBAs

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Mediterranean North Africa biome covers approximately the northern half of the country, including the mountain ranges, and 16 of the 17 species restricted to this biome are present in Morocco. These include Eleonora
Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • Gayuin

    Tour Operator
    Fantastic 8 days birdwatching tour to Morocco. From the spectacular Atlas mountains to the barren Sahara Desert, but this Trip goes further than a simple birdwatching tour, the culture and history of the region will amaze you, and the landscape will take your breath away.
Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • 2015 [02 February] - Jochim Bertands

    PDF Report
    Between the 31st of January and the 16th of February 2015, five Belgian birders tried to score as manylifers as possible in Morocco and Western Sahara. From Charleroi we flew to Casablanca and hired acar. We drove southwards to Western Sahara with some stops in Oualidia, Essaouira, Tamri, Cap Rhir,Oued Massa, Guelmin, Tan-Tan and Khniffis Lagoon.
  • 2015 [03 March] - Peter Stronach - Morocco & Western Sahara

    PDF Report
  • 2015 [05 May] - Jelmer Poelstra - Morocco and Western Sahara

    PDF Report
    This report describes a 17­-day birding trip to Morocco and Western Sahara, from April 18th to May 4th, 2015.
  • 2016 [01 January] - Bob Swann

    PDF Report
    Following the discovery of Sudan Golden Sparrows at Bir Anzarane in early 2015 Bill Bailey and myself decided toorganise a trip to Western Sahara in 2016. I contacted the Association Nature Initiative (ANI) a conservationorganisation based in Dakhla to enquire about the possibility of a few days guiding. They in turn offered a completepackage where they would look after us from our arrival in Dakhla till our departure. This involved two nights in theImperial Playa Hotel in Dakhla and three nights camping in the desert. It was to be all inclusive and include a guideand the use of a 4x4. The price for four people was 300Euro each. We thought this was a very good deal and tookthem up on their offer. Eric Alblas and Daniel Mauras agreed to join us on the trip.
  • 2016 [04 April] - Bob Swann

    PDF Report
    Following the report of Golden Nightjars near Aousserd in March 2016, Peter and myself decided to organise a spurof the moment trip to Western Sahara. We used Skyscanner to book flights from London Gatwick to Dakhla (viaCasablanca) with Royal Air Maroc. The skyscanner flights were considerably cheaper than the prices given on theRoyal Air Maroc website. We flew down from Inverness to Gatwick with Easyjet. A car was booked through clickcar-hire.com,which we collected from Dollar at Dakhla airport on our arrival. We used booking.com to book a hotelin Dakhla for our first night.
  • 2017 [05 May] - Rob Gordijn & Helen Rijkes

    PDF Report
    A long weekend independent trip to Western Sahara for some desert birding with Sander Bot & Lenze Hofstee. The destination has become more interesting in recent years since it offers the chance to see Golden Nightjar and Sudan Golden Sparrow. Both were seen in addition to many other new species.
  • 2017 [10 October] - Graeme Wright - Western Sahara and Morocco

    PDF Report
    ...This was a little challenging as often this is a two week trip. However we got all our key targets except Dunns’s Lark and Golden Nightjar...
  • 2018 [02 February] - Stefan Cherrug - Western Sahara and Morocco

    PDF Report
    Our primary goals were to visit Western Sahara to se Royal Tern, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Cricket Warbler, Golden Nightjar, African Dunn’s Lark and, for a few of us, Thick - bill e d Lark. Also to see Double - Spur red Francolin in the Sidi Yahia area ENE Casablanca for one in the group, to see African Crimson - winged Finch in Oukaimeden for some of us and to try for the mauritanica subspecies of Tawny Owl in the Ourika valley nearby and finally, for some of us, to see Brown - throated Martin at Oued Massa . One of us (SC) also tried to take notice of and photograph reptiles, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies and plants except all birds...
  • 2018 [03 March] - Chris Townend

    PDF Report
    ...A mid morning visit to the Leglat Massif produced some good views of Bar-tailed Lark and more Dunn’s Lark as Nico carefully guided us through the safe route to this site. Highlights once inside the massif area included Booted Eagle, migrating Marsh Harriers and an adult and immature Golden Eagle. Passerines included Western Orphean Warbler, Desert Lark and Blue Rock Thrush....
  • 2018 [04 April] - Bert de Bruin,

    PDF Report
    ...Birds worth mentioning on the first day:two nice Black Wheatears,our only two Spotless Starlings, lots of Audouin’s Gulls and a good deal migrating birds like Willow Warblers, swallows, Tree Pipits and shorebirds.Later in the week we saw here a Western Reef Heronof the subspecies gularis....
  • 2018 [04 April] - Paul Dufour - Morocco & Western Sahara

    PDF Report
    Most of the targets were seen with some highli ghts: Golden Nightjar : we were a bit worried for this species which begins to be quiet in this period and we missed it in the first evening in Oued Jenna , we were luckier on the second try ... Sudan Golden Sparrow : SGS actually only spend winter in the Oued Jenna area , we luckily spotted three birds in a large flock of Desert Sparrow during our first hour of search ...

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND