Wadi Al-W’eir & Sh'eeb Abu-Talha

Country/territory: Iraq

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3 (2015)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 142,755 ha

Protection status:

Nature Iraq

Site description
This very large site in the southwestern desert consists of a / two seasonal watercourses: Wadi Al W’eir and Sh'eeb Abu-Talha. Wadi Al-W'eir (also known as Sh’eeb Al-W’eir) is a relatively large wadi close to the strategic oil pipeline. It has a rocky desert habitat, featuring relatively good plant cover. In the upper part of the wadi, there is a fenced area created by the Ministry of Agriculture as a protected area for gazelles. There are many archaeological features, including an ancient road (from the Abbasid era) extending from Wadi Al W’eir to the Iraqi-Saudi Arabian border. An unpaved road extends beside the ancient road. Sh'eeb Abu-Talha brings seasonal rainwater from the southern and western areas of the desert to the Euphrates River. Sh'eeb Abu-Talh is relatively well vegetated. Sh’eeb Abu-Talha likely received its name from a unique tree species that grows nowhere else in Iraq except here, which is called “Talh”, so Abu-Talha means “father or land of the Talh” tree. A few patches of water were found in the depressions of this site during the winter 2010 survey. 2014 updates. The geology of the area is limestone and marls with rocky ground and sandy soil. The habitats vary from desert shrubs and desert herbaceous vegetation to salt pioneer swards vegetation to marsh reed beds. The non-vegetated area covers approximately 70%.

Key biodiversity
2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: Despite the fact that a high number of bird species were not observed during the 2010 surveys, the site seems to provide good habitat because of the watercourses and relatively rich plant cover. In addition to those mentioned in the table, and according to the reports of locals, large numbers of raptors are present, indicating the general health of this area. The flat, non-rocky parts (with scattered desert vegetation) provide good habitat for the Vulnerable Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii. According to the reports by locals and hunters, Sh’eeb Abu-Talha (including part of Sheeb Al-Mhari) provides suitable habitat for a variety of mammal and reptile species. include Honey Badger Mellivora capensis, Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena (Near Threatened), and Grey Wolf Canis lupus. According to the locals, Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indicaoccurs in considerable numbers, especially in Wadi Al-W’eir.Gazelles used to be found in the lower parts of this area until the last couple of decades but it is not clear whether this population still exists. Reptiles observed were: Desert Monitor Varanus griseusand Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia. Both are large lizards that are often targeted by hunters and U. aegyptiais on the CITES Appendix II because of potential declines due to hunting for food and trade. According to the Flora of Iraq, 30 trees of the very rare Acacia gerrardisubspecies negevensis(synonym iraqensis) were recorded in 1947 in Wadi Abu Talha (called Wadi Al-Mhari in the Flora of Iraq), but only one tree was found there in the 1960s-1970s (Townsend and Guest 1974). This tree was not observed during the KBA survey, possibly because the survey team did not visit the exact locality. Rhazya strictais also mentioned in the Flora of Iraq surveys (and in older botanical reports), and is a plant found in Iraq only in the southern desert and mostly in Najaf province. It is recorded at different locations along the ancient “Darb Zubaida” road between Najaf and Shbicha, which is part of this site.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Wadi Al-W’eir & Sh'eeb Abu-Talha. Downloaded from on 12/07/2020.