Lake Manzala, the largest of Egypt’s Mediterranean wetlands and the most productive for fisheries, is located in the north-eastern corner of the Nile delta. Manzala is generally rectangular in shape, about 60 km long and 40 km wide, and has an average depth of 1.3 m. It is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a sandbar, through which it is connected to the sea by three channels (bughaz). The salinity in the lake varies greatly; while it is low near drain and canal outflows in the south and west, it is high in the extreme north-west. Brackish conditions predominate over much of the remainder of the lake. Over 1,000 islands of varying sizes are scattered throughout the lake.
See Box for key species. Manzala is by far the most important wetland for wintering waterbirds in Egypt, holding a total of 233,901 waterbirds in winter 1989/90. This represented c.40% of all waterfowl counted throughout Egypt’s wetlands that winter and included the world’s largest concentrations of wintering Larus minutus and Chlidonias hybridus. There were also up to 36,180 waders present in spring 1990, indicating the great importance of the wetland for populations of passage migrants, especially of Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris minuta, Calidris alpina and Philomachus pugnax. No similar counts are available for autumn, but the lake is likely to be as important in that season. Manzala is also of importance for a number of breeding waterbirds and wetland species. About 35 species are known to breed, including Ixobrychus minutus, Egretta garzetta, Ardeola ralloides, Porphyrio porphyrio, Sterna albifrons, Charadrius alexandrinus, Vanellus spinosus, Glareola pratincola, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Ceryle rudis and Acrocephalus stentoreus. For some of these species, Manzala is one of the most important breeding areas in the entire western Palearctic region.
Non-bird biodiversity: Reptiles: The Mediterranean shore of the lake is a potential breeding site for endangered marine turtles. Caretta caretta (EN) is the species most likely to breed in the area. Mammals: Felis chaus is still known to occur in good numbers.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Manzala. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/05/2020.