Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
Desert landscape of flint/chert plains (hammada) in the east, flattish to gently rolling country covered in black basalt boulders (harrat) in the west, interspersed with siltflats and many shallow wadis. Plant cover is generally sparse, mainly limited to the shallow wadis and dominated by woody perennial herbs such as Artemisia, Anabasis and Achillea. There are no trees or large bushes. Within the reserve there is a near-permanent, spring-fed freshwater pool (200 ha) at Ghadir Burqu which is a major source of water for the livestock of bedouin living in a wide surrounding area. The main land-use is nomadic pastoralism and cultivation is very limited. An ancient Nabataean/Roman castle, Qasr Burqu, lies at the edge of the harrat.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. A relatively rich and intact desert bird community. Other proven or probable breeding species include Buteo rufinus, Aquila chrysaetos, Alectoris chukar, Cursorius cursor, Charadrius leschenaultii, Ramphocoris clotbey, Eremophila bilopha and Oenanthe lugens (a dark morph, endemic to the basalt desert of northern Arabia). Ghadir Burqu is an important water source for large numbers of raptors during autumn migration, e.g. Circus pygargus (daily max. 85, September), and a wide variety of waders and passerines are also attracted on migration and in winter. Up to 100 Grus grus overwinter around Ghadir Burqu.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), and possibly Caracal caracal (rare) and Gazella subgutturosa (rare).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Burqu Wildlife Reserve is currently under establishment; its designation in the future as a (possibly trans-border) Biosphere Reserve is being investigated. Large fauna proposed for re-introduction include Struthio camelus, Acinonyx jubatus, Gazella spp., Oryx leucoryx and Equus hemionus. Vast areas of the harrat are inaccessible even to four-wheel-drive vehicles due to the bouldery terrain, and are a true refuge for wildlife from hunting and human disturbance. Very intense grazing by camels, sheep and goats is the main environmental problem, this being especially obvious on the hammada. In addition, vehicle access to the hammada plains is virtually unlimited, and the desert crust here has been considerably scarred by tracks. The ease of access facilitates hunting of large animals, which was a major problem at least formerly. Local problems are disturbance of wildlife by military activity, creation of new vehicle-tracks within the harrat (providing increased access to isolated areas locally) and quarrying. At Ghadir Burqu, the trapping of birds of prey is a major problem and bird shooting is often excessive; water extraction by pastoralists for their flocks could have a serious impact on the lake in the near future if current trends continue.

Data-sheet compiled by Ian J. Andrews.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Burqu'. Downloaded from on 11/08/2022.