Western Plain: Barka river

Country/territory: Eritrea

IBA criteria met: A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 490,000 ha

Site description (baseline)
The site lies some 20 km north-east of Keru, in the valley of the Barka river which flows west and north out of the Central Plateau. It is not possible using existing information to locate an exact site, but the combination of records from ‘North-east of Keru’ and the ‘Barka river valley’, at the correct altitude and in the kinds of habitats described for this region by Smith, indicate that a site within this area will qualify as an IBA. The whole river valley area, especially north towards the Sudan border, is drier than more southerly parts of the Western Plain, with stony steppes and Acacia sp. thorn-bush. The Barka river flows north and is joined just before the border with Sudan by the Anseba. The sandy valley of the Barka drops to less than 300 m, forming the lowest part of the Western Plain. The area is semi-desert apart from the riparian woodland along the rivers which can be several hundred metres wide and includes taxa such as Hyphaene, Tamarindus, Tamarix, Adansonia, Ficus, Acacia>, Zizyphus,Salvadora, Leptadenia, Calotropis and occasionally, Kigelia spp. During the summer rains there are also belts of cultivation along the rivers and extensive rank grass and scrub.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. For both this site and the other ‘Western Plain’ site (Gash–Setit, ER010), many of the records are inferred (i.e. the species are reported generally from ‘the Western Plain’ or ‘the Barka river valley’ in habitats and at altitudes known to occur within the site) rather than any more specific mention of a particular location. This site, together with Western Plain: Gash–Setit (ER010) are the only two known sites in the country for the Sahel biome species Anthoscopus punctifrons and the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species Turdoides leucocephalus. There are also records of a single Sahara–Sindian (A02) species and seven Somali–Masai (A08) species, including Rhodophoneus cruentus recorded specifically from the Barka river valley (although at Karkabat, to the north of the area of the proposed IBA); see Table 2.

Non-bird biodiversity: The mammal Gazella dorcas (VU) were observed (10–60 km east of Keru) and ‘hartebeest’ reported (c.15 km north of Keru) during a brief visit by Butynski in 1995, between Halcota, Keru and Agordat.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Western Plain: Barka river. Downloaded from on 04/06/2023.