Dida Galgalu desert

Country/territory: Kenya

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1999)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 620,000 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2021 very high unfavourable low
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (baseline)
This area comprises a vast expanse of arid, inhospitable black lava desert, stretching from c.20 km north of Marsabit town for at least 60 km on either side of the main Marsabit–Moyale road. The distributional limits of the special birds, and therefore the limits of the IBA, are unknown. Rainfall is erratic and unpredictable, averaging less than 200 mm/year. The nomadic Gabbra people inhabit the area, but there are no permanent settlements in this harsh, waterless terrain. The desert’s southern fringe is just within the Marsabit National Reserve, but it is otherwise unprotected.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. This appears to be the stronghold of the enigmatic, Near Threatened, restricted-range Mirafra williamsi, and most recent records have been from this area. The species is locally common but inconspicuous in rocky lava desert with sparse grass and low Barleria shrubs. Other notable species include Neotis heuglinii, Merops revoilii, Spizocorys personata (probably the largest population in Kenya), Galerida theklae, Eremopterix signata and (on the northern fringes) Spreo albicapillus. Many Somali–Masai biome species occur in the general area of Marsabit, but it is not known how many are present in the desert itself.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Dida Galgalu desert. Downloaded from on 02/06/2023.