Shadegan marshes and tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa

Country/territory: Iran, Islamic Republic of

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2 (1994)
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Area: 425,140 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
1994 not assessed high not assessed
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Site description (1994 baseline)
Lying at the head of the Persian Gulf near Abadan, the site comprises the southern portion of the extensive flood-plain and delta system of the Karun, Dez and several other major rivers which rise in the north-west Zagros Mountains. The better-drained areas in the north support fresh to brackish sedge marshes dominated by Scirpus which give way to salt-tolerant vegetation in the central flood-plain and bare, dry mudflats in the south, dominated by Tamarix (Shadegan Marshes, 30°20'N 48°20'E, 282,500 ha). The coastal zone comprises extensive intertidal mudflats, creeks, sandbanks and low muddy islands (Khor-al Amaya, 30°00'N 48°40'E, 19,200 ha; Khor Musa, 30°10'N 49°00'E, 123,440 ha). Autumn and winter rains in the high Zagros cause extensive flooding, creating a vast complex of shallow lagoons which may dry out completely by the end of the summer. The Ahwaz-Abadan road passes along the west side of the site, while the main highway from Abadan to the port of Bandar-e Shahpur runs west to east across the southern edge of the marshes. Summer temperatures are extremely high, with means of over 45°C in July and over 7°C in January; frosts are rare. Precipitation is largely in winter, with an abrupt onset in November and terminating more gradually in April-May. Run-off peaks in late winter, when discharge from the Karun river may be ten times greater than in late summer. The wetland is bordered by barren flats to the north, east and north-west, but there is a large area of rice fields, date gardens and human settlement to the north-east. The land is publicly owned.

Key biodiversity
See boxes for key species. The area is extremely important for a wide variety of wintering waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks, and also a very important breeding and migration staging area. Shadegan Marshes are the most important site in the world for Marmaronetta angustirostris, regularly supporting 30-60% of the world population in winter. There are also notable wintering concentrations of Pelecanus crispus, Ciconia ciconia, Anser anser, dabbling ducks (over 500,000, mainly Anas crecca and A. acuta) and gulls (over 15,000, mainly Larus ridibundus and L. genei). The mudflats at the head of the Persian Gulf hold many thousands of shorebirds, including large numbers of Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa lapponica, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus. Aquila heliaca winters more commonly here than anywhere else in Iran, and Circus aeruginosus (up to 70) and Aquila clanga (up to nine) also winter in good numbers. Breeding birds include various herons and egrets, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca, Circus aeruginosus (25-50 pairs), various shorebirds, Larus genei and five species of terns. A variety of landbirds typical of the Persian Gulf coastal plain occur in the surrounding scrub and date gardens, including Hypocolius ampelinus, while the sedge marshes are the stronghold of Cisticola juncidis in Iran. At least 149 species have been recorded in the reserve.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Shadegan marshes and tidal mudflats of Khor-al Amaya and Khor Musa. Downloaded from on 30/11/2023.