Maghreb Magpie split from Eurasian Magpie

The population of Magpie living in North Africa and commonly known as Moroccan Magpie has finally been split from Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) under the name of Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica). Range of the “new” species comprises Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with a small and isolated population in Western Sahara.

IOC World Bird List, in its paper Version 8.2 (Jun 27, 2018) includes Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) as a new species from Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica).

Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) is quite unmistakable bird in the field. Out of the wonderful and evident bare blue skin beyond the eye, the bird is noticeable smaller and shorter winged than Eurasian Magpie. Thus, proportions are similar than the Iberian Magpie (Pica pica melanotos). The typical white patch in the wing coverts is also smaller in the Maghreb Magpie than in Eurasian Magpie.

 

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Maghreb Magpie (Pica mauretanica) near Agadir in our trip in 2016. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Habitat selection is also different. Maghreb Magpie prefers open woodlands, gardens, and periurban lands in plain areas, with better densities in some coastal areas, avoiding or appearing in low densities in farm land.

This split comes to join a long list of forms inhabitating Morocco than have been upgraded to full species in the last years: Atlas Flycatcher (Ficedula speculigera), Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha), Moroccan Wagtail (Motacilla subpersonata), African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus) and Maghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe halophila) have been some of the last.

Other races occurring Morocco very likely to become full species in short include African Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla mauretanica), North-African Tawny Owl (Strix aluco mauretanica) and North-African Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes buvryi).

 

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African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus) in High Atlas, Morocco, during one of our tour. Image: Carles Oliver

 

How to see these birds? Barcelona Birding Point offers a trip to Southern Morocco every late March and along the trip you can see all these species out of Atlas Flycatchers which occurs later in the season.

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