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Location Iraq, Salah ad-Din
Central coordinates 43o 51.13' East  34o 11.55' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii, B1i, B1iv, B2, B3
Area 4,470 ha
Altitude 68 - 74m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Site description This lake is c.8 km across and straddles the Tigris, running from the Samara Dam c.25 km north to Al Dor. Soils are mostly alluvial, and in some parts hills reach the river forming cliffs. Elsewhere the river banks are gravel. The lake and marsh above Samara dam extend for more than 5 km, and have large beds of Phragmites and Typha with a rich growth of submerged vegetation, particularly where the water depth is c.1.5 m. Riverine forest dominated by Populus euphratica occurs in patches along the banks and more especially on small islands. Much of the area is cultivated, mainly with date-palm gardens, wheat fields, orchards and some vegetables, and there is grazing by sheep and cattle. Parts of the river bank are used for gravel extraction, some such sites being now filled with water and surrounded by a thick growth of Populus and Tamarix. 2014 updates. Samara Wetlands were listed originally as an Important Bird Area (IBA008) list by Evans (1994). They are formed by the Samara Barrage, which was built in 1955 on the Tigris River, near the town of Al-Dure north of Samara City. The barrage regulates the water flow to Al-Tharthar Lake through the Samara (Tharthar) Canal, which extends from Al-Dhloee’a town to the southeast edge of Tharthar Lake.

Key Biodiversity A wide range of species breed, including Phalacrocorax pygmeus (possibly: see box), Marmaronetta angustirostris (possibly: see box), Accipiter nisus (probably), Falco naumanni (possibly), Columba palumbus, Halcyon smyrnensis, Ceryle rudis and Pycnonotus leucotis. Tadorna ferruginea has bred in the area. The site is used by large numbers of waterfowl and other waterbirds outside the breeding season; other wintering species include Circus aeruginosus (20) and Ticehurst et al. (1921–1922) noted vast flocks of Eudromias morinellus and several flocks of Eremophila bilopha wintering near Samara. At least 3,000 raptors move through the Tigris valley in this general area on passage. At least 146 species have been recorded at the site.

Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: the river and lake hold endemic cyprinid species. Flora: the general area is very important for harbouring wild relatives of important cereal crop species.

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: In total, 70 bird species were seen. In addition to Iraq Babbler, Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (Vulnerable), Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (Near Threatened), and European Roller Coracias garrulus (Near Threatened) were observed in the breeding season and Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus (Near Threatened) on passage. The site also held four breeding Sahara-Sindian Desert biome-restricted species but these did not trigger inclusion under A3 criterion. Other Important Fauna: One Otter specimen was killed near the dam by a farmer and delivered to the Iraqi Natural History Museum in Baghdad. It was examined and identified as Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra (Near Threatened) by the author (Al-Sheikhly, 2012; Al-Sheikhly & Nader, 2013). Fish: Data were collected in winter of 2009 using a fisheries frame survey methodology. When the site was visited the team found that fishing was officially not allowed for security reasons. However, that winter one person was seen using an electro-fishing device and he showed the survey team his catch of five species in the following catch ratios: Carassius auratus (25%), Cyprinus carpio (10%), Liza abu (50%), Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi, (5%), and Silurus triostegus (10%). Though not in his catch, the fishermen indicated that two others (Luciobarbus esocinus and L. xanthopterus) were also present at the site.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis resident  1992  frequent  B3  Least Concern 
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus resident  1992  common  B2  Least Concern 
Common Pochard Aythya ferina winter  1992  10,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Vulnerable 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca winter  1992  25 individuals  poor  B1i, B2  Near Threatened 
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris winter  1992  1 individuals  poor  B2  Least Concern 
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath non-breeding  1992  1 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Shikra Accipiter badius breeding  1992  1 breeding pairs  poor  B2  Least Concern 
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius winter  1992  2 individuals  poor  B2  Critically Endangered 
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus breeding  1992  50 breeding pairs  poor  B3  Least Concern 
Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus breeding  1992  30 breeding pairs  poor  B3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1973-1992  20,000 individuals  poor  A4iii   
A4iv Species group - soaring birds/cranes passage  1992  3,000 individuals  poor  B1iv   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed negligible

Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Not assessed  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   major
Wetlands (inland)   major
Forest   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
water management major
urban/industrial/transport minor
agriculture major
hunting major

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

References Al-Dabbagh (in prep.), Koning and Dijksen (1973). 2014 updates. Al-Sheikhly, O.F. (2012). The hunting of endangered mammals in Iraq . Wildlife Middle East. (6): 2&3: 10. Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Nader, I.A. (2013). The status of the Iraqi smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Hayman 1956 and Eurasian otter Lutra lutra, Linnaeus 1758 in Iraq. IUCN Otter SG Bulletin 30(1): 18-30. Evans, M. I. (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. Birdlife Conservation Series No. 2.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Samara Wetlands. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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