The site is a wide plain that flanks the South Sinai mountain massif on the west and separates it from the Gulf of Suez. It is elongate, with a north-west to south-east axis, being more than 100 km long and 20 km wide. The IBA is mostly concerned with the coastal portion of the plain, and extends from Wadi Feiran in the north to Ras Mohammed in the south, where migratory birds tend to concentrate and often land in vast numbers. The plain is dissected by many wadis that flow from the mountains of Sinai into the Gulf of Suez. To the north of El Tor a narrow mountain range separates the plain from the Gulf of Suez. This mountain, immediately overlooking the Gulf, is thought to be a very important departure point for many of the soaring birds that attempt to cross the Gulf of Suez in autumn. Sparse scrub vegetation and scattered Acacia trees cover sizeable sections of the plain. The town of El Tor is located within the area of concern and is the only major human settlement in the region.
See Box for key species. This IBA has a similar role and importance to migratory soaring birds as that of Gebel El Zeit (IBA EG031). The area is a major corridor for hundreds of thousands of migratory soaring birds in both autumn and spring. Almost 70% of Ciconia ciconia counted at Ras Mohammed in autumn 1998 actually make the crossing over the Gulf of Suez further north towards the town of El Tor. In a study of bird migration across the Middle East, all Ciconia ciconia, monitored by means of satellite transmitters, were observed to make the critical crossing of the Gulf of Suez over the El Qa Plain. The area probably holds one of the largest remaining breeding populations of Chlamydotis undulatan macqueenii in Egypt.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Gazella dorcas (VU) is present in small numbers, probably representing the largest remaining population in Sinai.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Development, especially for tourism, is planned for the coastline along the El Qa plain and could cause disturbance and pose a threat to migrating birds. Of most concern is the construction of powerlines near the coast, which could lead to avian collisions, especially in the spring when birds tend to fly at low altitudes as they come ashore after crossing the Gulf of Suez.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: El Qa plain. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2020.