Qarnain Island

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
A 2-km-long island in the southern Arabian Gulf between Qatar and the UAE, 180 km west-north-west of Abu Dhabi city. It is mostly composed of sabkhah and fairly flat sand, and there are two rocky peaks about 50 m high at the north end, with an outer shelf of limestone rock around the edge of the island, as well as patchy coral reef offshore. The low and level southern area of blown shell-sand is relatively well-vegetated (low shrubs of Suaeda and Salsola) but this becomes sparse in the undulating hillocks of the north due to the barren subsoil and the former presence of a Phalacrocorax nigrogularis roost/colony. There is some habitation with a small permanent population, including a desalination plant and a navigation station.

Key biodiversity
A very important seabird breeding site: see box for key species (data are from 1984). Other breeding species include Sterna bergii (100 pairs) and Pandion haliaetus (one pair).

Non-bird biodiversity: Reptiles: important for the breeding sea-turtles Chelonia mydas (E), Caretta caretta (V) and Eretmochelys imbricata (E).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The island's owners are keen to ensure the survival of terns, Phaethon aethereus and sea-turtles. The present level of development is not injurious to bird populations, although the Phalacrocorax nigrogularis colony has been displaced. Some harvesting of Larus hemprichii eggs by fishermen occurs but this is not a particular problem at the present level. Rats Rattus and mice Mus musculus are now established, though no evidence of feral cats Felis was found in May 1993. Unrestricted driving, off established tracks, is damaging the soil and vegetation. A report including proposals for conservation was submitted to the island's owner in 1989 (Hellyer 1989).

Data-sheet compiled by Colin Richardson.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Qarnain Island. Downloaded from on 28/06/2022.