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Location India, Bihar
Central coordinates 86o 8.00' East  25o 37.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4iii
Area 6,311 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Kawar (Kabar) Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, also a Ramsar Site, is the largest freshwater lake in northern Bihar. It is a residual oxbow lake formed by the changing course of the River Gandak, a tributary of the Ganga. In years of average rainfall, the Kawar Lake joins with the nearby Nagri Lake, Bikrampur Chaur and Burhi Gandak, a tributary of the River Ganga, to form a lake of about 7,400 ha. By late summer, however, the water is confined to the deeper areas of only c. 200 to 300 ha. As the water level recedes, over 2,400 ha of the exposed mudflats are converted into paddy fields. There is a permanent island (Jaimanglagarh) of about 130 ha in the southeast corner of the lake. Kawar Lake experiences tropical monsoon climate typical of the middle Gangetic plain. The lake supports a rich and diverse aquatic flora. Submerged macrophytes include Hydrilla verticillata, Potamogeton crispus and Najas minor. Emergent macrophytes include Oryza sativa and Ipomea aquatica (Anon. 1993).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: The lake is eutrophic, sustaining rich plant and animal life, and teeming with waterfowl (George 1964). Kawar is one of the most important wetlands for waterfowl in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It supports huge numbers of migratory ducks and Coot Fulica atra through the winter, as well as large concentrations of resident species such as Dabchick Tachybaptus ruficollis and Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans. The Near Threatened Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Ferruginous Pochard Aythyca nyroca and Rufous-vented Prinia Prinia burnesii are also found (Arvind Mishra pers. comm. 2001). About 26 species of birds including Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, Fantail Snipe Gallinago gallinago, Ruff Philomachus pugnax and Greyheaded Lapwing Vanellus cinereus were ringed here during a BNHS bird ringing camp (Anon. 2002). It is difficult to estimate the number of waterfowl found in Kawar as no systematic study has been conducted but certainly, every year, more than 20,000 waterbirds are found here, thus fulfilling A4iii criteria of BirdLife International (undated). It is likely that totally about a hundred thousand birds still visit this site. To give an idea of the number of birds that used to visit this site, S. P. Shahi estimated that about 70,000 birds were trapped every year till early 1980s. Manjhol town was a major bird market and a center for distribution to other areas. Since the declaration of the Sanctuary in 1989, bird trapping has reduced considerably but has been replaced by poisoning instead.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Over 29 species of commercially valuable fish have been recorded from the lake. The edible mollusc Pila globosa is abundant, the main food of the Asian Openbill.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Sarus Crane Antigone antigone resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2003 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - agro-industry farming likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kabar Lake Sanctuary 6,311 is identical to site 6,311  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Kawar/Kabar Lake Bird Sanctuary (Mandar Nature Club) 0


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Shrubland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
fisheries/aquaculture -
Notes: Fishing
rangeland/pastureland -
Notes: Grazing land
water management -
Notes: Irrigation; Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Arvind Mishra, Ali Hussain and Mehboob Alam.


Anonymous (1993) Directory of Indian Wetlands, WWF-INDIA, New Delhi and AWB Kuala Lumpur, xvi + 264 pp; 32 maps.

Anonymous (2002) Bird Banders Training Programme Final Report, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, India.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

George, P. V. (1964) Notes on migrant birds in North Bihar, J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 61: 370-384 Shahi S.P. (1982) Bird massacre in Manjhaul. Hornbill 3: 17-22.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Kawar (Kabar) Lake Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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