Jabal Aja and Northern Ha'il

Country/territory: Saudi Arabia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, B1i, B1iv, B2, B3 (1994)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 400,000 ha

Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 low not assessed negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Jabal Aja (27°30'N 41°30'E, 200,000 ha) lies west and south-west of Ha'il city and is an extensive outcrop of granite mountains with deep valleys. The site is extended north-east to the edge of the Nafud Desert to include an area used for surveys of migrant Grus virgo (Jibal at-Tuwal and Dilan al-Jilf, 27°50'N 41°45'E, 200,000 ha)-an area of flattish semi-desert and sandstone hills, punctuated by medium-altitude granitic mountains with deep valleys. The climate is fairly benign (altitude 800-1,550 m), and the area is one of the greenest in northern Arabia; in wet springs the desert and sandstone hills bloom, and many ephemeral pools and lakes are formed. Valleys in granite mountains are often lined with many Acacia trees. Much of the crane survey area is under wheat cultivation by pivot irrigation systems.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The site is crucially important for two species. It seems to lie at the centre of the spring flyway for the threatened African-wintering population of Grus virgo, and may be the best site for assessing the population size; flocks use both desert and agricultural habitats. Other breeding species include Tachymarptis melba (probable), Eremalauda dunni, Eremophila bilopha, Passer hispaniolensis, Rhodopechys obsoleta and R. githaginea. A wide range of raptors passes through in spring, and migration of swifts and passerines (especially larks, hirundines and wheatears) can be spectacular; migrants are attracted to agricultural areas in dry years, but otherwise prefer natural habitats.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Felis margarita (K), Canis lupus (V) and Capra nubiana (I). Flora: the site is of high botanical interest. Reptiles and amphibians: the area may have functioned as a Pleistocene refuge during ice-ages.

Data-sheet compiled by Dr Stephen F. Newton and P. Symens.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Jabal Aja and Northern Ha'il. Downloaded from on 02/04/2023.