Thursday 29 September 2011


Cream-Coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor). Trujillo, 22-09-2011. Raymond de Smet.

On 22 September a Cream-Coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor) was seen on Llanos de Belén, Trujillo (Cáceres) by Raymond de Smet and Sallaets Gaston. No less than 20 years have passed since the last Extremadura sighting of this species, on 25 September 1991 in Esparragosa de Lares (Badajoz) by Manuel Gómez Calzado. On that occasion the Courser was in a Dotterel flock (Eudromias morinellus). This time it was on its own, suddenly flying by when the observers were getting ready to photograph Bustards. Other birders who flocked to the spot next day lucked out.

As on other occasions when rarities have turned up, we'll take this chance to find out more about this species. Native to North Africa it also breeds in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (about 2000 birds according to Carrascal et al., 2006). Within Africa the Courser is a migrator, breeding north of the Sahara and wintering to the south. On occasions, however, some birds stray off the normal migration routes, turning up in Europe as a vagrant. In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries sightings in central Europe (France, UK, Germany) were not so infrequent as nowadays, possibly because the Courser was commoner back then. Nowadays it still turns up from time to time on mainland Spain and in the Balearic Islands (18 records and 32 accepted birds up to 2008) and in Portugal (6 records and 6 birds up to 2007), mainly in south Andalusia. Although it has been observed in Spain in nearly every month of the year, sightings peak at times of passage: spring (peaking in April) and late summer (peaking in September). 2001 was especially good, with a breeding record in Tabernas, Almería.

Let's hope we don't have to wait another 20 years to see this bird again in Extremadura. Our thanks go to Martin Kelsey for telling us about the finding (see the post in his own blog). More photos are on display in Rare Birds in Spain.

Cream-Coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor). Trujillo, 22-09-2011. Raymond de Smet.

- Carrascal, L. M., Seoane, J., Palomino, D. y Alonso, C. L. 2006. El corredor sahariano en España. I Censo Nacional (2005-2006). SEO/BirdLife. Madrid. [PDF]
- De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.
- CR-SEO (Comité de Rarezas de SEO). 2010. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2008. Ardeola 57(2).