The site is a wooded hill above the town of Moulay Idriss, 12 km north-east of Meknès. Stretching 15 km east–west, Jbel Zerhoun rises to over 1,000 m from the lower-lying surrounding plains of the Saïss and Oued Kroumane at 200–400 m. The site is the only natural space remaining near the urban centres of Fès and Meknès. The town of Moulay Idriss is included within the IBA boundary. The soft rock of the formation has been eroded into numerous steep valleys and gorges, resulting in a spectacular landscape. Average annual rainfall is around 800 mm, and the natural vegetation is rich and varied—although large parts are now covered with plantations of introduced Pinus spp. (P. radiata, P. halepensis and P. canariensis).
See Box for key species. Jbel Zerhoun is chiefly important for its breeding population of Falco naumanni. Over 200 pairs have been known to nest (1995 figure) so the population may perhaps exceed A4ii thresholds. This colonial cliff-nesting species utilizes nest-sites in the ravines of Jbel Zerhoun and in and around the walled town of Moulay Idriss. Seven species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome have been recorded (Table 2): all breed except Caprimulgus ruficollis, a summer visitor. Many migrating Palearctic passerines and raptors also pass through the site.
Non-bird biodiversity: The tortoise Testudo graeca (VU) occurs.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
A low priority 3 SIBE (No. 30), the site is unprotected, but the Pinus plantations are subject to forestry regulations. Human activities include agriculture, forestry and mass tourism—the town of Moulay Idriss is the scene of an annual pilgrimage to a saint’s tomb by Moroccans, and the much-visited Roman ruins of Volubilis lie just outside the boundary of the site. Overgrazing and poaching are threats, but there are a number of reforestation initiatives. It is recommended that a multiple-use protected area be created to safeguard the site as a much-needed recreational green space located close to Fès and Meknès.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Jbel Zerhoun. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2020.