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Location South Sudan, Jungoli,Lakes,Unity,Upper Nile
Central coordinates 31o 0.00' East  8o 0.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 5,500,000 ha
Altitude 380 - 450m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description The Sudd swamps of southern Sudan are among the most important wetlands for birds in Africa. Three protected areas exist within the Sudd: Shambe National Park and Fanyikang and Zeraf Game Reserves, all within the Bahr-el-Jebel system of the Sudd, the part of the swamps that will be most affected by the Jonglei canal, as and when completed. For current purposes, the core of the Sudd is treated as a single site; this includes the three protected areas and covers much of the Bahr-el-Jebel system between the towns of Malakal to the north and Bor to the south.The Sudd swamps are the seasonally inundated flood-plain of the upper White Nile. They can be divided into four largely distinct sections, of which the Bahr-el-Jebel is the central system and thought to be the most important for birds. The other sections are the Bahr-el-Ghazal system to the west, the Sobat–Baro–Pibor river system to the east and the smaller Machar marshes to the north-east. The Bahr-el-Jebel system consists of two main rivers, the Bahr-el-Jebel, the main course of the White Nile, to the west and the smaller Bahr-ez-Zeraf to the east. The incomplete Jonglei canal lies a little further east. The area is extremely flat with an average slope of only 10 cm per km. The habitats of the area consist of a variety of wetlands, grasslands and woodlands. The wetland can be divided into flowing waters, lakes and permanent swamps. There are three swamp types: Vossia cuspidata swamps (which cover c.250 km²), Cyperus papyrus swamps (c.3,900 km²) and Typha domingensis swamps (13,600 km²). Grassland can be divided into seasonally river-flooded grassland (16,200 km²) and seasonally rain-flooded grassland (20,000 km²). There are areas of single-species woodland mainly of Acacia seyal (5,400 km²) or Balanites aegyptiaca (5,300 km²). Mixed woodland is characterized by Ziziphus mauritiana, Combretum fragrans, Acacia seyal and Balanites aegyptiaca. Average annual rainfall is c.900 mm and falls from late April to November.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. The Sudd swamps hold by far the largest population of Balaeniceps rex. Aerial surveys in 1979–1982 counted a peak of 6,407 individuals. The site is probably also important for Aythya nyroca and, on passage, for Falco naumanni. In addition to those listed below, three species characteristic of the Sahel biome (A03) and five of the Somali–Masai biome (A08) have also been recorded (see Table 2).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU), Giraffa camelopardalis (LR/cd), Damaliscus lunatus (LR/cd), Gazella thomsoni (LR/cd), Kobus megaceros (LR/nt), K. kob (LR/cd), K. ellipsiprymnus (LR/cd), Redunca redunca (LR/cd), Syncerus caffer (LR/cd), Ourebia ourebi (LR/cd), Hippotragus equinus (LR/cd) and Tragelaphus spekii (LR/nt).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Sarkidiornis melanotos winter  9,611 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Fulvous Whistling-duck Dendrocygna bicolor winter  8,775 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-faced Whistling-duck Dendrocygna viduata winter  51,810 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis winter  150,216 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ciconia episcopus winter  2,475 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis winter  11,154 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus winter  344,487 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White Stork Ciconia ciconia winter  16,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Saddlebill Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis winter  4,158 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Marabou Leptoptilos crumenifer winter  359,719 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus winter  17,688 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus winter  1,695,240 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis winter  172,359 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides winter  18,414 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath winter  3,819 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea winter  5,049 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  19,074 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex winter  6,407 individuals  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  5,643 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens winter  11,187 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Long-tailed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus winter  8,883 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Fox Kestrel Falco alopex resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black Crowned-crane Balearica pavonina winter  36,823 individuals  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sun Lark Galerida modesta resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-pate Cisticola Cisticola ruficeps resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Foxy Cisticola Cisticola troglodytes resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-winged Grey Warbler Drymocichla incana resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Purple Glossy-starling Lamprotornis purpureus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bronze-tailed Glossy-starling Lamprotornis chalcurus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-fronted Black-chat Myrmecocichla albifrons resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser superciliosus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bush Petronia Petronia dentata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Cinnamon Weaver Ploceus badius resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-winged Pytilia Pytilia phoenicoptera resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-bellied Firefinch Lagonosticta rara resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  2,500,000-4,999,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
Black-breasted Barbet Pogonornis rolleti resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Ez Zeraf Game Reserve 970,000 protected area contained by site 970,000  
Fanikang Game Reserve 48,000 protected area contained by site 48,000  
Shambe National Park 62,000 protected area contained by site 62,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   2%
Shrubland   53%
Grassland   43%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -
nature conservation and research -
water management -

References Howell et al. (1988), Hughes and Hughes (1992), Range Ecology Survey (1983).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Sudd (Bahr-el-Jebel system). Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife