The site comprises c.400 ha of permanent freshwater marshes on the plains 12 km south of Lake Uromiyeh, c.20 km north of Mahabad. The marshes are usually frozen and under snow in winter. There are extensive Phragmites beds and little open water, surrounded by a belt of seasonally flooded sedge and grassland. Peripheral areas of the wetland have been drained and converted to agricultural land. There is livestock grazing. Land ownership is public.
See box for key species. The marshes are important for breeding waterfowl, notably Plegadis falcinellus and Marmaronetta angustirostris; other breeding species include Buteo rufinus, Circus aeruginosus and Falco tinnunculus. Pelecanus onocrotalus visits to feed in summer from colonies at Lake Uromiyeh. Large numbers of ducks occur during the migration seasons, as well as Circus pygargus, Pandion haliaetus and Limosa limosa. In most winters, the wetland is frozen and devoid of birds, but in mild years it may support large numbers geese and ducks, as well as Aquila chrysaetos, Circus cyaneus and Accipiter nisus.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The marshes have recently been designated a No-hunting Area, and are likely to be given Protected Area status by about 1998. The Department of the Environment has proposed that the area be designated a Ramsar Site. Large portions of the marsh were drained by the Mahabad Multipurpose Drainage and Irrigation Project in the 1970s. Since the early 1980s, several large-scale die-offs of waterfowl have occurred during the breeding and migration seasons; up to 100,000 waterfowl are believed to have died in a single year, possibly from botulism.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ghara Gheshlaq No-Hunting Area. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 10/08/2022.