Samara Wetlands

Country/territory: Iraq

IBA criteria met: A2 (2014)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 4,470 ha

Nature Iraq
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2013 very high not assessed negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (baseline)
This lake is c.8 km across and straddles the Tigris, running from the Samara Dam c.25 km north to Al Dor. Soils are mostly alluvial, and in some parts hills reach the river forming cliffs. Elsewhere the river banks are gravel. The lake and marsh above Samara dam extend for more than 5 km, and have large beds of Phragmites and Typha with a rich growth of submerged vegetation, particularly where the water depth is c.1.5 m. Riverine forest dominated by Populus euphratica occurs in patches along the banks and more especially on small islands. Much of the area is cultivated, mainly with date-palm gardens, wheat fields, orchards and some vegetables, and there is grazing by sheep and cattle. Parts of the river bank are used for gravel extraction, some such sites being now filled with water and surrounded by a thick growth of Populus and Tamarix. 2014 updates. Samara Wetlands were listed originally as an Important Bird Area (IBA008) list by Evans (1994). They are formed by the Samara Barrage, which was built in 1955 on the Tigris River, near the town of Al-Dure north of Samara City. The barrage regulates the water flow to Al-Tharthar Lake through the Samara (Tharthar) Canal, which extends from Al-Dhloee’a town to the southeast edge of Tharthar Lake.

Key biodiversity
A wide range of species breed, including Phalacrocorax pygmeus (possibly: see box), Marmaronetta angustirostris (possibly: see box), Accipiter nisus (probably), Falco naumanni (possibly), Columba palumbus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Pycnonotus leucotis. Tadorna ferruginea has bred in the area. The site is used by large numbers of waterfowl and other waterbirds outside the breeding season; other wintering species include Circus aeruginosus (20) and Ticehurst et al. (1921–1922) noted vast flocks of Eudromias morinellus and several flocks of Eremophila bilopha wintering near Samara. At least 3,000 raptors move through the Tigris valley in this general area on passage. At least 146 species have been recorded at the site.

Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: the river and lake hold endemic cyprinid species. Flora: the general area is very important for harbouring wild relatives of important cereal crop species.

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: In total, 70 bird species were seen. In addition to Iraq Babbler, Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (Vulnerable), Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (Near Threatened), and European Roller Coracias garrulus (Near Threatened) were observed in the breeding season and Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus (Near Threatened) on passage. The site also held four breeding Sahara-Sindian Desert biome-restricted species but these did not trigger inclusion under A3 criterion. Other Important Fauna: One Otter specimen was killed near the dam by a farmer and delivered to the Iraqi Natural History Museum in Baghdad. It was examined and identified as Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra (Near Threatened) by the author (Al-Sheikhly, 2012; Al-Sheikhly & Nader, 2013). Fish: Data were collected in winter of 2009 using a fisheries frame survey methodology. When the site was visited the team found that fishing was officially not allowed for security reasons. However, that winter one person was seen using an electro-fishing device and he showed the survey team his catch of five species in the following catch ratios: Carassius auratus (25%), Cyprinus carpio (10%), Liza abu (50%), Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi, (5%), and Silurus triostegus (10%). Though not in his catch, the fishermen indicated that two others (Luciobarbus esocinus and L. xanthopterus) were also present at the site.

Data-sheet compiled by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh.

Raptors MOU - IBA listed under Table 3 of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Samara Wetlands. Downloaded from on 03/06/2023.