Country/territory: Iraq

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A4i, A4iii (2015)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 164,023 ha

Protection status:

Nature Iraq
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 very high not assessed medium
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Situated to the east of the River Tigris, Haur Al Hawizeh (Hawaizah) and its associated marshes cover an area of approximately 2,200 km2 between Amara and Basrah (31°00'N--31°45'N, 47°25'E--47°50'E). A small portion of the haur extends over the border into Iranian territory, where it is known as the Hoor Al Azim. The wetland is fed by floodwaters from the River Tigris and from the Karkheh river in the east (in Iran); it is bordered in the north by the Musharra Canal and in the south by the Shatt Al Arab. The marsh is partly seasonal and partly permanent. The latter area has extensive Phragmites reedbeds alternating with open sheets of water. The Nahrsabla Marshes (31°30'N 47°35'E) are an area of predominantly seasonal marsh in the north-eastern portion of the haur, near the Iranian border.

Key biodiversity
According to Savage (1968), Haur Al Hawizeh provides wintering habitat for some of the largest concentrations of wildfowl in the world. Large numbers of Anser anser, Anas platyrhynchos, A. strepera, A. crecca, A. penelope, A. acuta, A. clypeata, Netta rufina, Aythya ferina, A. fuligula, Phoenicopterus ruber and Fulica atra are believed to occur in winter, while A. querquedula is common on passage (Georg and Savage 1970b). However, no systematic ornithological surveys or waterfowl counts have ever been undertaken in the Iraqi portion of these marshes. Haur Al Hawizeh was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Lutra perspicillata (K; the subspecies L. p. maxwelli is endemic to the marshes and endangered), Gerbillus mesopotamiae (endemic).

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: During the 2005-2010 surveys, 94 bird species were observed in Hawizeh. In addition to those listed in the table above, two Vulnerable species, Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliacal) and Greater Spotted Eagle (A. clanga), were found wintering at this site, as were three Near Threatened species, Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) (summer and winter), Pallid Harrier (Circus cyaneus), and Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) (passage and winter), all in sub-IBA threshold numbers. The Iraqi race of Little Grebe (Tachibaptus ruficollis iraquensis) and the Iraqi race of Hooded Crow, (Corvus cornix capellanus) (also known as Mesopotamian Crow) breed here. Additionally, the site supported eight breeding Sahara-Sindian Desert biome-restricted species but these did not trigger inclusion under the A3 criterion. Hawizeh is the only wetland in Iraq that holds a breeding population of African Darter Anhinga rufa (of the Middle East race chantrei) and African Sacred IbisTheskiornis aethiopicus. According to frequent reports of locals and hunters, the Goliath Heron Ardea goliath occurs in the northern part of the marshes, but in small numbers. Data were collected in 2005-2010 at various sites in Hawizeh. The southen marshes lie at the centre of the distribution of an isolated subspecies of Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli. Its status and distribution have been unclear due to confusion with the Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra (Near Threatened),which also occurs in the region. Recent surveys (Omer et al. 2012, Al-Sheikhly and Nader 2013) have confirmed the presence of Smooth-coated Otter in parts of the southern marshes for the first time since the 1950s-1960s and it is likely that this species occurs in the Hawizeh, as this is one of the few areas in southern Iraq that was not completely drained in the 1990s. Some key carnivore species found or reported during the KBA surveys include Jungle Cat Felischausand Wild Cat Felissilvestris. In 2012, Grey Wolf Canus lupus, Golden Jackal Canisaureus, and Wild Cat Felissilvestris were camera trapped in Majnoon. Fish: Data were collected from 2005 through 2007, and in 2009, during which15 species were found. These were Acanthobramamarmid, Acanthopagrus cf. latus, Alburnusmossulensis,Carasobarbusluteus, Carassiusauratus, Cyprinuscarpio, Heteropneustusfossilis, Leuciscusvorax, Liza abu, L.carinata, Luciobarbusxanthopterus, Mesopotamichthyssharpeyi, TenualosailishaandSilurustriostegus. In addition, Mastacembelusmastacembeluswas observed, which has economic importance but whose conservation status is unknown in Iraq.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hawizeh. Downloaded from on 25/01/2021.