Buhayrat al-Assad

Country/territory: Syria

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3 (1994)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 70,000 ha

The Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2014 low not assessed negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Buhayrat al-Assad is a huge reservoir of more than 63,000 ha created by a dam on the River Euphrates (Al-Furat) near the town of Al-Thawra, and occupies c.80 km of the valley (north-west end at 36°18'N 38°10'E, south-east end at 35°49'N 38°28'E). The shores are mainly steep and rocky, and the water appears oligotrophic, being very clear and without sediment. Much of the surrounding area is dry, stony, and almost devoid of vegetation. However, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform has recently afforested large areas on the southern shore and around Al-Thawra with Olea, Cupressus, eucalyptus and Amygdalus, including an offshore island (Jazirat al-'Ayd or Jazirat al-Thawra) which is being established as a nature park with a tourist centre and a network of vehicle tracks. The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway with a gate. Sugar-cane and cereals are cultivated in the south-east. The dam is used for hydro-electric power generation. Jabbar Castle is a historical site on the east side of the lake near the dam.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. An important roosting site for large numbers of wintering wildfowl which feed on the surrounding steppes. At least two areas of ornithological interest were identified in the 1970s: (1) the western bank at the northern end, 30 km south-east of Manbij, and (2) the south-east corner 8 km south-west of the dam. Breeding species include Tachybaptus ruficollis, Athene noctua (very common), Larus melanocephalus (possibly breeds: max. 20 adults, June 1975), L. genei (said to breed at or near an island called Tell al-Abyad near the dam; 130 adults nearby, April 1993), Ceryle rudis and Rhodopechys obsoleta (possibly). Huge numbers (said to be hundreds of thousands) of geese, ducks and other waterfowl currently winter in the area, feeding on the surrounding steppe and roosting at the site; Anser albifrons (min. 250), Tadorna tadorna and Anas platyrhynchos are especially common. In the 1970s other common species included Fulica atra (10,000, November). Notable species on passage include Podiceps nigricollis, Phalacrocorax carbo, Egretta garzetta, Casmerodius albus, Larus fuscus, Emberiza caesia and Rhodopechys obsoleta.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V).

Data-sheets compiled by: Dr Riad Sabbagh and Dr M. A. Kabbani; Dr Ibrahim Hanna and Dr Amer Majid Agha (translated by S. Zaiane).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Buhayrat al-Assad. Downloaded from on 07/02/2023.