Buntings on the Balcony

TALIM Striolated Bunting

House Bunting (Emberiza sahari), American Legation Tangier (photo by Christiane Delongueville)

Last year, when I wrote about "wildlife" in the medina, I neglected a whole class of the animal kingdom: birds.  How could I?  They are by far the most ubiquitous creatures in this mostly treeless part of the city.

We're not really bird watchers, though a friend of ours, who visited recently, is an accomplished wildlife photographer.  We thank her for the nice photo, and for identifying the House Bunting, who, with his numerous relatives, starts his day very early chirping in the Legation's courtyards. 

Wikipedia says this of the House Bunting:

In Morocco, the species is traditionally regarded as sacred, and has become very tame, freely entering and feeding inside houses, shops and mosques.

We can attest to the part about entering houses – sacred or not, we've chased a couple of dozen of these birds who like to fly through our unscreened windows.  They also sometimes like to pass the night in the Legation stairwell, safe from cats who roam our flat roofs.  Here are some pics of non-urban striolated buntings – in Oman.

Our open air aviary includes pigeons (who sometimes come home to roost – a neighbor had a rooftop coop, and though he's long gone, the pigeons have been known to return).  Then there are my favorites, the turtle doves, or in French, tourterelle, with their slightly mournful call.

With Tangier's port just down the hill from the medina, we have our share of seagulls, and our courtyard fountains are favorite bathing spots with the buntings and a variety of other small birds.  Once we saw an amazing flock of storks, looping in high, wide circles above the city and over the Strait of Gibraltar.  The blog Moroccan Birds has some great stork photos and much more – plus an article on the arrival of buntings in Tangier.

Gerald Loftus

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