The site lies at 1,280 m in the foothills of the north-west Zagros Mountains near the Iraq border, a few kilometres west of Marivan, and comprises Lake Zaribar (1,150 ha) and the surrounding broad valley and hillsides. The lake is deep, fresh water, with extensive marshes at northern and southern ends, and is fed by several small streams and a large spring at the north-east corner, overflowing into a small river at the south end. It is often frozen in mid-winter. Habitats include extensive Phragmites and Typha beds, Carex marshes with scattered clumps of Salix and Populus, wet meadows, arable land (mainly wheat) with orchards and Populus groves, and stony hillsides with heavily grazed Quercus scrub on the lower slopes and taller, less disturbed Quercus forest higher up. Land ownership is public. There is fishing and waterfowl hunting at the lake, and a small resort area.
See boxes for key species. The extensive marshes are important for breeding waterfowl (notably Podiceps cristatus, Anser anser, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala) and Circus aeruginosus (c.5 pairs), and provide feeding habitat for the large numbers of Ciconia ciconia which nest nearby. The lake is also of some importance for wintering waterfowl, especially diving ducks, and is the most important wintering site for Mergus merganser in Iran (up to 35 birds). The nearby Quercus forest supports a characteristic Zagros bird fauna. There is an exceptionally large breeding colony of Ciconia ciconia in a patch of forest north of the lake. Clamator glandarius apparently bred in 1974 (the only recent record of this species in Iran). Other notable breeding or probably breeding species are Hieraaetus pennatus, Dendrocopos medius, Ficedula semitorquata, Parus lugubris, Remiz pendulinus and Lanius nubicus.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is no legal protection. Quercus forest on the lower slopes around the lake had been badly degraded by overgrazing and cutting for fuel in the 1970s. The area has experienced major changes in recent years and as such should be thoroughly studied.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Zaribar. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/06/2022.