Gulf of Salwah

Country/territory: Saudi Arabia

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3 (1994)
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Area: 62,500 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed low negligible
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Site description (1994 baseline)
The western sector of a shallow, enclosed bay between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, from al-'Uqair south to Salwah on the border with Qatar (c.100 km of coastline). It is bordered by a generally well-vegetated sandy coast where the high level of groundwater allows the growth of date palms and reedbeds at the edge of the sea, with reeds Phragmites often extending into the seawater. The area contains large sabkhahs and elevated peninsulas surrounded by shallow, hypersaline lagoons, and the intertidal zone consists largely of flats of sand and sand-rock. Marine substrates are sand and rock supporting extensive seagrass beds. Elevated parts have been isolated by the present water level, forming islands close to the coast (e.g. Zakhnuniyah, Samamik, Judhaym). These are often muddier than the mainland, support a good growth of salt-tolerant vegetation, and seabird colonies are found on sandier parts. Unaybir, a small island at the southern tip of the gulf, consists of elevated fossil coral rock. Small-scale traditional fishing occurs, with a small fishing settlement on Zakhnuniyah. The mainland supports major rock quarrying operations and is used for camel grazing. The ruins of al-'Uqair are of considerable historical value.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The gulf holds the main breeding sites in Saudi Arabia of Phalacrocorax nigrogularis (see box). There are important breeding numbers of three species of tern (see box), as well as the only known breeding Sterna caspia on the Saudi Arabian Gulf coast (3-5 pairs). There are many wintering Larus ichthyaetus (189 in January 1993) and L. cachinnans/L. argentatus, largely associated with breeding colonies of P. nigrogularis. Other winter counts include 1,260 Larus genei.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Dugong dugon (V; globally important population).

Data-sheet compiled by P. Symens, A. Suhaibani and M. Werner.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Gulf of Salwah. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.