email a friend
printable version
Location Iraq, Wasit
Central coordinates 45o 48.53' East  32o 42.55' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2
Area 54,938 ha
Altitude 7 - 18m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Site description A large isolated lake on arid steppic plains c.10 km north of the River Tigris and c.20 km north-east of Kut. This rather shallow and brackish lake formerly covered c.50,000 ha but was partly drained in 1945; it is supplied by numerous streams from the Zagros mountains and by rainfall run-off, as well as by flooding overspill from the Tigris (although this is now rare due to flood control barrages). In 1968 and 1972 there were no reedbeds and little other emergent vegetation, but earlier sources indicate this was not formerly the case. The surrounding steppe becomes thickly vegetated with annual grasses, herbs and Salicornia after good winter rains. There is arable land to the south-west. Duck-netting was widespread in 1972. 2014 updates. Shuweicha was defined as an Important Bird Area (IBA020) by Evans (1994), lies to the southeast of the former IBA Shubaicha.

Key Biodiversity Prior to 1945, the haur was known as a traditional wintering area for geese, ducks, shorebirds and other waterfowl, with huge numbers of Anser anser, A. albifrons, Branta ruficollis, Tadorna ferruginea, Anas platyrhynchos, A. strepera, A. crecca, A. penelope, A. acuta, A. clypeata, Phoenicopterus ruber and Recurvirostra avosetta (Georg and Savage 1970a,b, V. Robertson in litt.). According to Savage (1968), the area probably held one of the highest concentrations of geese in the Middle East, and was also very important for Anas querquedula on passage. Surveys in January 1968, December 1972 and January 1979 revealed that the lake was still important for flamingos and shorebirds, while the surrounding flooded steppe, arable land and Salicornia flats remained a very important feeding habitat for geese (e.g. min. 600 Anser anser) and Tadorna ferruginea. A total of 11,900 ducks and geese were counted in January 1968. The haur was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980). Older observations on breeding species, many dating back to c.1914-1918, indicate that current breeding species may still include Pelecanus onocrotalus (thousands with 'quite small young' in August), Ardea purpurea (possibly breeding), Plegadis falcinellus (possibly breeding), Anser anser (small numbers in July), Glareola pratincola (breeding confirmed), Larus ichthyaetus (possibly breeding: recorded in August), Chlidonias leucopterus (breeding confirmed) and C. hybridus (breeding confirmed). No information more recent than 1979 is available; the lake is difficult to approach, and surveys have gained only limited access, so actual numbers of birds present were undoubtedly much higher than observed.

Non-bird biodiversity: No information available to BirdLife International.

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: During the surveys, few birds were observed but this may be due to the timing of surveys. No water was seen in the marsh due to drainage activities (the land drains towards the southeast). Nevertheless, this wetland is very important for the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Vulnerable) as satellite info shows frequent (historical and recent) signals from tagged birds in this area and historical data as well as reports from locals and hunters indicate that this is an important wetland for wintering waders and waterfowl. The open plane areas also provide good habitat for the Vulnerable Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii and raptors, e.g Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca (Vulnerable).The area might also be important for some passage passerines and other migrants and this might apply to some restricted-range bird species. Important Other Fauna: Mammals, Reptiles, and other fauna: According to the frequent reports of locals and hunters, the area contains suitable habitat for a variety of species. The reported animals are: Honey Badger Mellivora capensis, Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena (Near Threatened), Red Fox/Ruppell’s Fox Vulpes spp., Golden Jackal Canis aureus, and Grey Wolf Canis lupus. Fisheries: Locals report that the area has supported a very economically important fishery but water management decisions by the Iraqi government are not taking this into account. For example, after good rains during the 2011/2012 winter, the marsh supported abundant fish but the marsh was drained early in the year resulting in a massive fish kill.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus winter  1968-1973  70 individuals  poor  A1, B2  Vulnerable 
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons winter  1973-1979  169-325 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis winter  1954-1955  1,000 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea winter  1973-1979  643-1,280 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1968-1979  1,299-2,700 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris breeding  1958  100 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  1958  500 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1968-1979  2,568-6,600 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath non-breeding  1985  2 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  1968-1979  3 individuals  poor  B2  Vulnerable 
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo passage  1917  frequent  B2  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1973  377 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Charadrius alexandrinus winter  1973  724 individuals  poor  B1i  Not Recognised 
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius passage  1914-1918  abundant  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Critically Endangered 
Armenian Gull Larus armenicus winter  1973  160-645 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1968-1979  8,800-20,250 individuals  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed negligible

Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid 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)
Wetlands (inland)   major
Artificial - terrestrial   minor
Grassland   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture minor
rangeland/pastureland major
hunting major

Acknowledgements Information compiled by Dr D. A. Scott and D. J. Brooks, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.

References Ctyroký (1987), Georg and Savage (1970a,b), Georg and Vielliard (1970), Koning and Dijksen (1973), Moore and Boswell (1956-1957), Scott and Carp (1982). Evans, M. I. (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 2.

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

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

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