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Location Iraq, Salah ad-Din
Central coordinates 43o 22.00' East  34o 20.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
Area 455,000 ha
Altitude 100 m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Site description Lying between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, 120 km north of Baghdad in north-central Iraq, the site comprises c.80,000 ha of the north-eastern part of Lake Tharthar (Mileh Tharthar, c.230,000 ha) plus a large adjacent area of semi-desert to the east (c.375,000 ha). The lake is deep and nutrient-poor. The site's northern edge runs just south of the Baiji-Haditha road, and the eastern edge is 10 km from Samara, Tikrit and Baiji. The soil is calcareous with a rather uniform surface: a pavement of small sandy stones in the south and central parts, and mainly sandy in the north (near Baiji). Low hills rise near Lake Tharthar, these being covered with larger stones. A few shallow wadis cross the area, running towards the lake, and the area has a rich supply of underground water. Vegetation is sparse, and mainly small shrubs (Haloxylon, Achillea, Artemisia, Rhanterium), though there are patches of denser growth, particularly in depressions, and scattered small Ziziphus trees. After the light December-February rains, most of the area develops a thin cover of grasses and annuals. Using water from tube-wells, the area has been farmed since c.1980, and there are now at least 150-200 farms of c.10 ha each, mostly in the south and east of the site. There is some sheep grazing. A strip of land c.20 km wide along the lake shore is not exploited because of the unsuitable soils. Lake Tharthar is connected to the Tigris by an inlet canal via the Samara Dam, and is used for water storage and flood-relief; an outlet canal feeds back into the Tigris further downstream, and a branch from this canal reaches south to feed into the Euphrates as well.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis resident  1988-1989  10 individuals  poor  B3  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1988-1989  10,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Pochard Aythya ferina winter  1988-1989  10,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca winter  1988-1989  10 individuals  poor  B1i, B2  Near Threatened 
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus non-breeding  1988-1989  4 individuals  poor  B2  Endangered 
Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii resident  1988-1989  6 individuals  poor  B3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1988-1989  31,000 individuals  poor  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Desert   82%
Wetlands (inland)   18%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture 1%
rangeland/pastureland major
water management 18%
fisheries/aquaculture major
hunting major

Other biodiversity Mammals: Canis lupus (V) and Gazella subgutturosa (rare). Reptiles: Varanus griseus (rare). Flora: the general area is very important for harbouring wild relatives of important cereal crop species.

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh.

References Al-Dabbagh (in prep.), Carp (1975a), Koning and Dijksen (1973).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mahzam and Lake Tharthar. Downloaded from on 19/04/2014

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