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Location Afghanistan, Nimruz
Central coordinates 61o 48.00' East  31o 36.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 35,000 ha
Altitude 500 m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Site description A very large, permanent, shallow, fresh to brackish lake, lying in the Seistan desert in extreme south-west Afghanistan at 500 m, and surrounded by vast Phragmites reedbeds. It derives its waters from the Khashrud river, which is dry in summer but in spring carries meltwater from the central highlands of Afghanistan; formerly the Helmand river was also important but since construction of Kajaki Dam this river has carried little water into the Puzak. The wetland has always been subject to wide fluctuations in size according to variations in rainfall and snowfall in the mountains. About a third of the swampland is in Iran but by far the most permanent wetland is in Afghanistan, where at least formerly the habitat probably never dried out completely, even in the driest years. The wetland is fringed by Tamarix scrub, and surrounding desert is dominated by Artemisia steppe. In the 1970s the human population was relatively small (a total of c.1,000 in several villages).

Key Biodiversity This is the most important wetland in Afghanistan and of major international importance, estimated to hold up to one million wildfowl in winter. A total of 357,000 birds was counted in January 1976 during an aerial survey organized jointly with the Iranian government: see box for key species. Other wintering species in the 1970s included Tadorna tadorna (211), Circus aeruginosus (51) and Porphyrio porphyrio. Little is known of breeding or passage species as most visits have been in mid-winter; former breeding species included Phoenicopterus ruber, Anser anser, Cygnus olor, Netta rufina (possibly), and currently may still include Picus squamatus flavirostris (although possibly now extinct in Seistan through destruction of trees), Caprimulgus mahrattensis (reported as common by Cumming 1905 but not found subsequently, even by Paludan in 1949) and C. aegyptiacus (probable).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V) is said to be common. The entire Seistan area is a unique ecosystem, but is very poorly known.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Pintail Anas acuta winter  1976  15,600 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus winter  1965  unknown  A1  Vulnerable 
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  1976  3,150 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1976  12,050 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1976  11,050 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1976  21,326 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1976  10,100 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Common Teal Anas crecca winter  1976  27,220 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris breeding  1971  200 breeding pairs  poor  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  1971  63 individuals  poor  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina winter  1976  2,500 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Common Pochard Aythya ferina winter  1976  50,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Vulnerable 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca winter  1976  100 individuals  poor  A4i  Near Threatened 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala breeding  1971  300 breeding pairs  poor  A1, A4i  Endangered 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala winter  1976  10 individuals  poor  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea winter  1971  425 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  1971  1,826 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1975  1,260 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  1976  350 individuals  poor  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  1975  7 individuals  poor  A1  Vulnerable 
White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla winter  1975  11 individuals  poor  A1  Least Concern 
Chlamydotis undulata resident  1975  unknown  A1, A3  Not Recognised 
Common Coot Fulica atra winter  1971  175,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1975  232 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  1971  895 individuals  poor  A4i  Near Threatened 
Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius breeding  1949  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Sykes's Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis resident  1904-1905  common  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus breeding  1975  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus resident  1975  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1976  357,000-3,570,000 individuals  good  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Hamun-i-Puzak Waterfowl Sanctuary 35,000 is identical to site 35,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial Arable land  minor
Desert Desert & semi-desert - clay; Desert & semi-desert - salty  major
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams; Standing brackish & salt water; Standing fresh water; Temporary water bodies; Water-fringe vegetation  major
Shrubland Low bushes; Scrub  minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture minor
rangeland/pastureland major
Notes: cattle (fed with cut reeds)
other major
Notes: reed-cutting
hunting minor

Acknowledgements A total of 16 IBAs have been identified in Afghanistan. Responsibility for maintenance and update of the IBA information in WBDB is held by BirdLife Secretariat. The baseline survey of IBAs took place during 1991-1993 and was published in Evans (1994). The site accounts and introduction were compiled from information supplied by S. C. Madge, who acknowledges the impressive series of detailed reports compiled principally by Dr R. G. Petocz and Dr J. A. Sayer, team leaders of the National Parks and Wildlife Management Project, which was initiated at the request of the Government of Afghanistan and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization under the United Nations Development Programme, and which ran from 1972 to 1980, although most ornithological data were collected in the latter years. Waterfowl counts are based mostly on data collected for the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, chiefly by F. J. Koning, during brief winter and early spring visits in 1970–1972. A. Jamil carried out a survey of Ab-i-Istada for this project, with invaluable assistance from A. Fitzherbert and J. Harris (International Crane Foundation). E. Smith supplied valuable information for the site accounts, and Dr K. Habibi reviewed the first draft of the inventory.

References Green (1993), Petocz, Rodenburg and Habibi (1976).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Hamun-i-Puzak. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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