The site comprises a plateau mainly at altitudes of 1,900-2,100 m and almost completely devoid of forest cover. Comparatively dry subalpine meadows and mountain steppes are the dominant landscapes. Scattered over the high plateau are about 60 natural lakes, six of them large, creating a unique type of high-altitude, treeless wetlands. The human population density is low. The inner part, especially the Samaras ridge and its surroundings, are practically virgin lands. Rising up from the plateau like huge cones are some dormant volcanoes, a vast area around each strewn with boulders and scree.
Two shallow lakes at this site, Madatapa and Khanchali, are apparently the most important in the country for breeding and staging waterbirds, including the following species of global conservation concern: Pelecanus crispus, Phalacrocorax pygmeus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala, Anser erythropus and Crex crex. Breeding non-waterbirds include Tetraogallus caspius, one of only 10 species in Europe that are restricted (when breeding) to the Eurasian high-montane biome. Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Tetrax tetrax (uncommon passage visitor). Virtually the entire Georgian population of Ciconia ciconia (53-61 pairs in 1996) and Grus grus (at least 10 pairs) is confined to the site. Both Pelecanus crispus and P. onocrotalus breed only at Kartsakhi lake on the border with Turkey, but occur commonly in other parts of the site. The site holds one of the largest populations of Bubo bubo in the country. Among other notable breeding species are Ardeola ralloides, Melanitta fusca (common), Circus pygargus (9 pairs), Larus armenicus (abundant) and Motacilla citreola. The status of Rhodopechys sanguinea is uncertain.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Javakheti Plateau. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2023.