Shuweicha Marsh

Country/territory: Iraq

IBA criteria met: A1 (2014)
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Area: 54,938 ha

Nature Iraq
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed very high negligible
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Site description (1994 baseline)
A large isolated lake on arid steppic plains c.10 km north of the River Tigris and c.20 km north-east of Kut. This rather shallow and brackish lake formerly covered c.50,000 ha but was partly drained in 1945; it is supplied by numerous streams from the Zagros mountains and by rainfall run-off, as well as by flooding overspill from the Tigris (although this is now rare due to flood control barrages). In 1968 and 1972 there were no reedbeds and little other emergent vegetation, but earlier sources indicate this was not formerly the case. The surrounding steppe becomes thickly vegetated with annual grasses, herbs and Salicornia after good winter rains. There is arable land to the south-west. Duck-netting was widespread in 1972. 2014 updates. Shuweicha was defined as an Important Bird Area (IBA020) by Evans (1994), lies to the southeast of the former IBA Shubaicha.

Key biodiversity
Prior to 1945, the haur was known as a traditional wintering area for geese, ducks, shorebirds and other waterfowl, with huge numbers of Anser anser, A. albifrons, Branta ruficollis, Tadorna ferruginea, Anas platyrhynchos, A. strepera, A. crecca, A. penelope, A. acuta, A. clypeata, Phoenicopterus ruber and Recurvirostra avosetta (Georg and Savage 1970a,b, V. Robertson in litt.). According to Savage (1968), the area probably held one of the highest concentrations of geese in the Middle East, and was also very important for Anas querquedula on passage. Surveys in January 1968, December 1972 and January 1979 revealed that the lake was still important for flamingos and shorebirds, while the surrounding flooded steppe, arable land and Salicornia flats remained a very important feeding habitat for geese (e.g. min. 600 Anser anser) and Tadorna ferruginea. A total of 11,900 ducks and geese were counted in January 1968. The haur was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980). Older observations on breeding species, many dating back to c.1914-1918, indicate that current breeding species may still include Pelecanus onocrotalus (thousands with 'quite small young' in August), Ardea purpurea (possibly breeding), Plegadis falcinellus (possibly breeding), Anser anser (small numbers in July), Glareola pratincola (breeding confirmed), Larus ichthyaetus (possibly breeding: recorded in August), Chlidonias leucopterus (breeding confirmed) and C. hybridus (breeding confirmed). No information more recent than 1979 is available; the lake is difficult to approach, and surveys have gained only limited access, so actual numbers of birds present were undoubtedly much higher than observed.

Non-bird biodiversity: No information available to BirdLife International.

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: During the surveys, few birds were observed but this may be due to the timing of surveys. No water was seen in the marsh due to drainage activities (the land drains towards the southeast). Nevertheless, this wetland is very important for the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Vulnerable) as satellite info shows frequent (historical and recent) signals from tagged birds in this area and historical data as well as reports from locals and hunters indicate that this is an important wetland for wintering waders and waterfowl. The open plane areas also provide good habitat for the Vulnerable Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii and raptors, e.g Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca (Vulnerable).The area might also be important for some passage passerines and other migrants and this might apply to some restricted-range bird species. Important Other Fauna: Mammals, Reptiles, and other fauna: According to the frequent reports of locals and hunters, the area contains suitable habitat for a variety of species. The reported animals are: Honey Badger Mellivora capensis, Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena (Near Threatened), Red Fox/Ruppell’s Fox Vulpes spp., Golden Jackal Canis aureus, and Grey Wolf Canis lupus. Fisheries: Locals report that the area has supported a very economically important fishery but water management decisions by the Iraqi government are not taking this into account. For example, after good rains during the 2011/2012 winter, the marsh supported abundant fish but the marsh was drained early in the year resulting in a massive fish kill.

Information compiled by Dr D. A. Scott and D. J. Brooks, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Shuweicha Marsh. Downloaded from on 24/02/2024.