A characteristically hilly region, with low ridges whose slopes are naturally eroded, and many gorges that accumulate to form valleys or taper off into plains. This site belongs to an area with the driest climate in Georgia; there are steppes and savanna-like landscapes, arid woodlands and semi-deserts, with an abundance of relict and endemic plant species. Vegetation at the site is diverse: relict Bothriochloa and typical Stipa steppes predominate, frequently represented by Paliurus vegetation; there are scattered savanna-like woodlands of Celtis and xerophytic species of wild Pyrus; arid woodlands composed of relict and rare species of Juniperus clothe the slopes of ridges, while semi-deserts are represented by Artemisia, Salsola, etc.; riparian forests along the Iori and Alazani rivers include some of the tugai-type, dominated by Salix and Populus.
This is an outstanding site for raptors, with at least 25 diurnal raptors and six owls recorded: Neophron percnopterus (12 pairs in 1998), Gyps fulvus (39 pairs in 1998), Accipiter brevipes (occurs on passage), Aquila nipalensis (passage and winter visitor), Falco biarmicus (two breeding pairs in 1988), F. cherrug (occurs in winter, but breeding recently confirmed for one pair and suspected for a second). Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Haliaeetus albicilla (three resident pairs; marked decline), Circus macrourus (common in winter), Falco naumanni (uncommon breeder; strong decline), Tetrax tetrax (passage visitor) and Otis tarda (formerly a breeder in small numbers, now only a rare passage migrant and winter visitor). This is the only site in Georgia supporting Francolinus francolinus (common) and also has the country's largest population of Alectoris chukar. Counts of staging Anthropoides virgo in 1986 totalled 2,500-3,500 birds and Grus grus also passes through on migration. Among other breeding species are Delichon urbica (large cliff colonies), Cercotrichas galactotes (rare and irregular), Sitta tephronota, S. neumayer and Sturnus roseus (abundant), while Tichodroma muraria visits the area in winter.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Iori Region. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/04/2021.