Al Houbara

Country/territory: United Arab Emirates

IBA criteria met: A1 (2017)
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Area: 180,000 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2017 medium near favourable high
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Site description (baseline)
A sand-gravel plain with scattered flat-topped outcrops in the extreme west of Abu Dhabi emirate, becoming purer sand and more undulating towards the south (but not forming large dunes), with sabkhah in coastal and more low-lying areas. Climate is very arid with sparse winter rainfall. Land-uses include some grazing (restricted), military training and limited hunting (perhaps two weeks per year). There are some irrigated plantations of native and non-native trees.

Key biodiversity
Very little ornithological work has been carried out in the area (and data are only available for winter), but the desert crust and vegetation are relatively intact compared to other parts of the country. Other wintering species include (with estimated mid-winter populations in some cases) Pterocles exustus, Athene noctua, Alaemon alaudipes (7,000), Calandrella rufescens (2,000), Anthus campestris (1,500), Oenanthe deserti (15,000), Sylvia nana (12,000) and Lanius excubitor (1,000).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Gazella sp. occurs (some may be introduced). Reptiles: there is a good diversity, including relatively high numbers of Uromastyx aegyptius.

Data-sheet compiled by Dr Patrick Osborne.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Al Houbara. Downloaded from on 31/05/2023.