Finchaa and Chomen swamps

Country/territory: Ethiopia

IBA criteria met: A1, A3 (1996)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 35,000 ha

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description (baseline)
Finchaa and Chomen swamps are on the eastern border of East Welega Zone. The Zonal capital is Nekemte, 331 km west of Addis Ababa. The road to Finchaa leaves the Addis–Nekemte road at Gedo, 80 km west of Ambo town. This freshwater wetland complex is made up of two shallow swamps, Finchaa to the north and Chomen to the south, on a flat plateau. A low ridge separates them, with water flowing from Chomen into Finchaa through the ridge. Finchaa covers c.28,000 ha and Chomen an even larger area. North of Finchaa a series of small ridges separates the swamp from the Aleltu river and its tributaries, which run parallel from west to east before dropping over the basalt shelf into the Abbay gorge. The western edge of the plateau is delimited by a ridge of highland that runs north-west–south-east and divides the watershed of the Didessa river to the east from the Finchaa and Chomen swamps. A lower ridge on the east separates the swamps from the Guder river basin. The encircling highlands limit the extent of the swamps during the rainy season. The only outlet is at the north-east corner of Finchaa, where the Finchaa river falls in a long drop of nearly 500 m into the Abbay gorge. The streams flowing into Finchaa and Chomen swamps are all short, thus direct rainfall is a vital source of their water. In the dry season the water-level in the swamps is less than 1 m, but in the rainy season the level rises to 2–3 m. Water is released from the swamps at a rate controlled by the Finchaa channel between the swamp outlet and the falls. Floating vegetation covers both swamps. The most important species is the perennial stoloniferous grass Panicum hygrocharis, which forms floating islands. There are beds of short sedges and rushes around the swamp edges and aquatic plants such as Nymphaea coerulea and Persicaria spp. in patches of open water. The surrounding land is quite heavily cultivated, but there are extensive areas of grassland where clumps of Phoenix reclinata are a conspicuous feature on the ridges. Higher areas have remnant forest patches (some now reduced to lone trees) with Podocarpus falcatus, Cordia africana and large Ficus vasta. In the gorge, the vegetation changes into woodland of Combretum spp., Terminalia spp. and other small trees, with large stands of Oxytenanthera abyssinica. Immediately below Finchaa this vegetation has been cleared for large-scale sugar-cane agriculture. The local Oromo farmers keep large numbers of cattle. No use of the swamps by the local people has been reported. Finchaa has developed into a small town associated with one of the country’s most important hydroelectric power plants. The dam and power-station were built in the early 1970s.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. This site is primarily important for Grus carunculatus. Reports from local people suggest that Grus carunculatus may breed in the swamps of Finchaa and Chomen. During a recent survey, two Grus carunculatus were noted, but numbers may be considerably higher, since only a small area of the swamp was surveyed. Small numbers of Rougetius rougetii are resident in the area. The Afrotropical Highlands biome species known from the area include Cyanochen cyanopterus and Oriolus monacha. Other interesting species recorded recently are Gypaetus barbatus, Pandion haliaetus and Balearica pavonina.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Finchaa and Chomen swamps. Downloaded from on 06/06/2023.