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Location Egypt, Ismailiya
Central coordinates 32o 15.00' East  30o 20.00' North
IBA criteria A4i
Area 6,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Nature Conservation Eqypt (Affiliate)

Site description Before the construction last century of the Suez Canal, the Bitter Lakes were relatively small, hyper-saline inland lakes, with a salinity of up to 161 g/l, surrounded by salt-encrusted sabkha. After the lakes were connected with both the Mediterranean and the Red Seas by the Suez Canal, they became a single marine body, their size increased and salinity decreased, reaching between 43 and 46 g/l in 1972. The northern, wider end of this water-body is known as the Great Bitter Lake, while the southern, narrower part is known as the Little Bitter Lake. The bottom is sandy and scantily covered with vegetation. Agricultural land, tourist developments and scattered areas of saltmarsh border the lakes on the western side, while the eastern side is mostly sandy desert. Drainage from recent agricultural development on the Sinai side of the Suez Canal has created a fairly large Typha and Phragmites marsh at the north-western corner of the Great Bitter Lake. There are a number of low sandy islets and spits in the Little Bitter Lake and scattered along the eastern side of the lakes.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. Although there has not been a comprehensive systematic count of birds at the Bitter Lakes, they are known to be of limited importance for wintering and migratory waterfowl. Larus genei is the only species that is known to winter in internationally important numbers. The species most likely breeds locally, as evidenced by the presence of birds throughout the year, especially juveniles in summer. The species may breed on some of the islets and sandy spits on the eastern side of the lakes. Sterna albifrons, Charadrius alexandrinus and Vanellus spinosus also breed in good numbers.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei winter  3,065 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
tourism/recreation -

References Meininger and Atta (1994), Vadiya and Shenuda (1985).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Bitter Lakes. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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