Bishoftu lake

Country/territory: Ethiopia

IBA Criteria met: A1 (1996)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 100 ha

Protection status:

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description
Bishoftu is one of a number of crater lakes near Debre Zeit in East Shewa Zone, 50 km west of the zonal capital, Nazaret. Like all of the volcanic crater lakes in this area, Bishoftu is a closed system, surrounded by very steep and rocky hills and cliffs. The lake is fed directly by rain and by water flowing down from the crater rims. The maximum and minimum depths are 87 m and 55 m respectively. The water is alkaline, with the erosion of basaltic and hyper-alkaline rocks surrounding the lake playing an important role in increasing the alkalinity of the water. The lake does not have enough of a shoreline to attract wading birds. Cliffs and scattered trees that grow on these cliffs make up the major habitats surrounding the lake. The phytoplankton is dominated by blue-green algae, particularly Microcystis aeruginosa and Oscillatoria spp., and there are some fish, although not much fishing is done. Drier slopes around the lake support various Acacia spp. where disturbance and grazing are minimal. Severely eroded areas are either bare or carry highly drought-tolerant shrubs, scramblers and succulents, the most conspicuous of which are Carissa edulis, Euphorbia tirucalli, Pterolobium stellatum, Caesalpina spinosa and Opuntia ficus-indica. Debre Zeit is an important town, with a local agriculture-based economy. The market is a major feeder market for Addis Ababa. The town has a number of training and research centres, with the Air Force, the Ethiopian Management Institute Conference Centre, National Veterinary Institute, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Addis Ababa University, and Alemaya University of Agriculture all represented. A flourmill, a tannery, and a number of modern agricultural enterprises, particularly for chicken and egg production, have been established, and the area is a popular weekend resort for people from Addis Ababa.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. Bishoftu is one of the most important of the crater lakes in the Debre Zeit area. It supports, along with the other lakes, a wintering population of 10–15 Aythya nyroca. Two surveys in January 1996 recorded 50 species, including Phoenicopterus minor, Netta erythrophthalma, Anas clypeata and a number of migrant passerine species. Gyps rueppellii roost, and are believed to nest, in the rocky hills that surround the lake. In addition, one species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome also occurs; see Table 3.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bishoftu lake. Downloaded from on 17/06/2019.