|Location||Egypt, Red Sea|
|Central coordinates||33o 49.00' East 27o 28.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i, A4ii|
|Altitude||0 - 300m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box for key species. The Hurghada Archipelago holds the largest known breeding population of Larus leucophthalmus in the world. A total of 6,500 adults was counted attending the sprawling Hurghada city rubbish-dump in May 1996. It is almost certain that all these birds breed on the Hurghada archipelago and, probably, represent only part of the local breeding population. The fact that all birds counted were adults in breeding plumage indicates that the total population of the area, if immatures and juveniles are accounted for, should be much larger than the previous estimate of 1,500–2,000 pairs. The current estimate made here for the Hurghada archipelago is of at least 3,000 breeding pairs, or a total population of some 10,000 birds. In addition, the Hurghada archipelago supports a considerable diversity of other breeding seabirds and waterbirds. At least 15 species are known to breed or to have bred: Sula leucogaster, Phaethon aethereus, Butorides striatus, Egretta gularis, Platalea leucorodia, Pandion haliaetus, Falco concolor, Charadrius alexandrinus, Larus hemprichii, Sterna caspia, Sterna bergii, Sterna bengalensis, Sterna anaethetus and Sterna repressa. A large colony of the last species (c.1,150 pairs) was discovered in July 1996 on an islet off Tawila island. These islands also appear to play an important role as a stepping-stone for some soaring migrants crossing the mouth of the Gulf of Suez, with some birds landing on the islands.
Site description An archipelago of 22 uninhabited islands, plus a handful of very small islets, scattered from the Straits of Gubal (at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez) to Hurghada. Most are small or medium-sized and fairly flat coralline islands, such as Tawila and Ashrafi, but some are quite large and hilly. Shadwan is the largest of the Egyptian Red Sea islands, being c.56 km² in area and reaching some 300 m at its highest point. The area of the IBA includes adjacent marine waters.Many of these islands have an igneous core ringed by fossil coral reefs that were raised and exposed by uplifting of the core. The igneous core is visible at the centre of many of the larger islands. Typically, the islands have elevated rocky shores on their north-eastern sides and gently sloping sandy shores on the south-western sides. This is most probably a result of erosion by prevailing north-easterly winds and currents. Extensive intertidal flats (coral table) fringe some of the islands, particularly on the southern and western shores, while deep waters surround others.Vegetation is sparse and consists mainly of saltmarsh, including Halocnemum, Arthrocnemum and Nitraria. The islands of North Qeisum, Abu Mingar, Ashrafi and Shadwan have small- to medium-sized stands of mangrove Avicennia.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Sooty Falcon Falco concolor||breeding||-||44 breeding pairs||-||A4ii||Near Threatened|
|White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus||breeding||-||3,000 breeding pairs||-||A1, A4i||Near Threatened|
|Caspian Tern Sterna caspia||breeding||-||200 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis||breeding||-||500 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa||breeding||-||1,500 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Hurghada||Nature Reserve||0||protected area overlaps with site||0|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||-|
|Notes: Collection of eggs and chicks of seabirds.|
Other biodiversity Marine: The coral reefs found in this area are some of the richest in the world, supporting a diversity of life including endemic and endangered species. Flora: The mangroves found on the islands are among the most extensive in the northern Red Sea. Reptiles: Eretmochelys imbricata (CR) and Caretta caretta (EN) have been found breeding on several islands of the archipelago. Mammals: Dugong dugon (VU) is still reported to inhabit some shallow protected waters where there are sea-grass beds. This species has virtually vanished from the area, because of catching pressure and disturbance by fishermen and tourists and, undoubtedly, has suffered from the chronic oil pollution in the region.
Management considerations The islands south of 27°15 N are protected as part of the Elba National Park, declared by Prime Ministerial Decree 450/1986, adjusted by Prime Ministerial Decree 1186/1986 and Prime Ministerial Decree 642/1995. Islands further north are not protected, but are proposed for protection. EEAA, with support from USAID, is developing the management and infrastructure of the island protectorates from Hurghada southwards and will expand their programme to the north once those islands are protected.During the past decade the Hurghada region has witnessed an unprecedented development boom; from a quaint little town with two hotels, to a sprawling, densely populated city with tens of hotels and holiday resorts. Now, tourist developments extend from about 30 km north of Hurghada nearly all the way to Safaga. All this development has taken place with little regard for the natural environment, obviously with severe negative impact, particularly on littoral and marine habitats. There is, likewise, increasing pressure for tourism development on the islands. Two eco-facilities have been established for day use on Giftun Kabir island and others are planned. There has been a request to establish a hotel on one of the islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez.Breeding success on offshore islands is probably severely compromised by increased tourist activity in the vicinity. Tourists landing on the islands during the breeding season cause disturbance to seabird colonies. Egg- and chick-collection by local fishermen is known, but is thought not to be widespread, although the impact could be considerable. There is a constant threat of inappropriate activities on the islands; for example, the use of dune buggies for recreational purposes has been reported from many islands.Oil pollution is a chronic problem in this region of the Red Sea and one of the most serious for wildlife. Badly operated oil-production facilities contribute the most, although the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Suez are an important source of oil pollution, as well as solid waste. The use of dynamite in submarine oil-exploration and fishing was a common practice in the past and might still be practised in some parts of the Red Sea today. The impact of this destructive technique on the marine environment is devastating. Feral cats have been introduced on several islands by army personnel stationed there. The impact of these and other introduced fauna on nesting birds is not known, but could be very destructive.
References Frazier and Salas (1984), Goodman and Meininger (1989), Jennings et al. (1985).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hurghada archipelago. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2013
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