Sheedvar island

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
A small island c.2 km due east of the eastern tip of Lavan island and c.9 km off the mainland coast in the central Persian Gulf. The island is relatively flat (maximum elevation c.6 m), composed of a coral conglomerate covered by dunes and sandy soils. There are no springs or surface water. Rainfall is very low, and the summer temperatures frequently exceed 40°C. Along the southern, western and north-west shores the rock is exposed as cliffs up to c.2 m high. In the south-east corner the rocks form a jumbled heap of boulders just above high water. The remainder of the shoreline is a narrow sand beach which widens at the north-east corner to form a sandy promontory. There are two main areas of sparsely vegetated dunes, stretching across the north and south of the island. The flat area across the centre of the island is densely clad with arid steppic vegetation dominated by Atriplex, in places forming an impenetrable shrub layer up to 60 cm high. Land ownership is public. The island is uninhabited, although a ruined building indicates former occupation.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The island supports the largest known colony of terns in Iran, believed to contain c.300,000 pairs of Sterna repressa and 3,000-5,000 pairs of S. anaethetus in 1972, along with much smaller numbers of S. bergii and S. bengalensis. However, by 1976 and 1977, S. repressa had declined dramatically to only 25,000-50,000 pairs, almost certainly due to massive egg-collecting by the Lavan islanders. There is a colony of Egretta gularis (8-12 pairs) as well as 3-4 pairs of Butorides striatus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Reptiles: the island is a very important nesting site for sea-turtles, mainly Chelonia mydas (E), with smaller numbers of Eretmochelys imbricata (E) and possibly one other species. A small poisonous snake (Viperidae) is abundant and has given the island its alternative name of Maru (Snake) Island.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The island was designated a Protected Region in 1971 and later upgraded to Wildlife Refuge. Egg-collecting for human consumption was a major problem in the 1970s. In 1972, it seemed that only the larger terns (Sterna bergii and S. bengalensis) were being targeted and Sterna repressa was scarcely disturbed. However, collecting increased enormously over the next few years, and by 1976 the S. repressa colony had been reduced to c.10% of its former size. S. anaethetus, which breeds under rocks or beneath the dense vegetation, did not appear to have been affected. There is an ever-present threat of oil pollution from the oil terminal on Lavan Island and from the many oil tankers passing nearby. Various recommendations were made in the 1970s concerning improved protection for the tern colonies, including the erection of notices and the stationing of Department of the Environment personnel on the island during the breeding season. Surveys of the seabird breeding colonies are recommended by the Department of the Environment, in autumn and in winter, in order to assess their current status.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sheedvar island. Downloaded from on 26/06/2022.