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Location Iraq, Al-Basrah,Maysan
Central coordinates 47o 41.09' East  31o 34.63' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
Area 164,023 ha
Altitude 4 - 11m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Summary 2014 updates. Hawizeh Marsh became the first Ramsar site in Iraq, designated when Iraq signed the Convention for Protecting Internationally Important Wetlandson 17/02/2008 (known as the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar, 2011). The total area of the designated Ramsar site is 137,700 ha. The estimated 1973 pre-drainage area of Hawizeh Marsh was 243,500 ha, and about 56% of the original area was included in the Ramsar site designation

Site description Situated to the east of the River Tigris, Haur Al Hawizeh (Hawaizah) and its associated marshes cover an area of approximately 2,200 km2 between Amara and Basrah (31°00'N--31°45'N, 47°25'E--47°50'E). A small portion of the haur extends over the border into Iranian territory, where it is known as the Hoor Al Azim. The wetland is fed by floodwaters from the River Tigris and from the Karkheh river in the east (in Iran); it is bordered in the north by the Musharra Canal and in the south by the Shatt Al Arab. The marsh is partly seasonal and partly permanent. The latter area has extensive Phragmites reedbeds alternating with open sheets of water. The Nahrsabla Marshes (31°30'N 47°35'E) are an area of predominantly seasonal marsh in the north-eastern portion of the haur, near the Iranian border.

Key Biodiversity According to Savage (1968), Haur Al Hawizeh provides wintering habitat for some of the largest concentrations of wildfowl in the world. Large numbers of Anser anser, Anas platyrhynchos, A. strepera, A. crecca, A. penelope, A. acuta, A. clypeata, Netta rufina, Aythya ferina, A. fuligula, Phoenicopterus ruber and Fulica atra are believed to occur in winter, while A. querquedula is common on passage (Georg and Savage 1970b). However, no systematic ornithological surveys or waterfowl counts have ever been undertaken in the Iraqi portion of these marshes. Haur Al Hawizeh was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Canis lupus (V), Lutra perspicillata (K; the subspecies L. p. maxwelli is endemic to the marshes and endangered), Gerbillus mesopotamiae (endemic).

2014 updates. Additional Important Bird Observations: During the 2005-2010 surveys, 94 bird species were observed in Hawizeh. In addition to those listed in the table above, two Vulnerable species, Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliacal) and Greater Spotted Eagle (A. clanga), were found wintering at this site, as were three Near Threatened species, Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) (summer and winter), Pallid Harrier (Circus cyaneus), and Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) (passage and winter), all in sub-IBA threshold numbers. The Iraqi race of Little Grebe (Tachibaptus ruficollis iraquensis) and the Iraqi race of Hooded Crow, (Corvus cornix capellanus) (also known as Mesopotamian Crow) breed here. Additionally, the site supported eight breeding Sahara-Sindian Desert biome-restricted species but these did not trigger inclusion under the A3 criterion. Hawizeh is the only wetland in Iraq that holds a breeding population of African Darter Anhinga rufa (of the Middle East race chantrei) and African Sacred IbisTheskiornis aethiopicus. According to frequent reports of locals and hunters, the Goliath Heron Ardea goliath occurs in the northern part of the marshes, but in small numbers. Data were collected in 2005-2010 at various sites in Hawizeh. The southen marshes lie at the centre of the distribution of an isolated subspecies of Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli. Its status and distribution have been unclear due to confusion with the Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra (Near Threatened),which also occurs in the region. Recent surveys (Omer et al. 2012, Al-Sheikhly and Nader 2013) have confirmed the presence of Smooth-coated Otter in parts of the southern marshes for the first time since the 1950s-1960s and it is likely that this species occurs in the Hawizeh, as this is one of the few areas in southern Iraq that was not completely drained in the 1990s. Some key carnivore species found or reported during the KBA surveys include Jungle Cat Felischausand Wild Cat Felissilvestris. In 2012, Grey Wolf Canus lupus, Golden Jackal Canisaureus, and Wild Cat Felissilvestris were camera trapped in Majnoon. Fish: Data were collected from 2005 through 2007, and in 2009, during which15 species were found. These were Acanthobramamarmid, Acanthopagrus cf. latus, Alburnusmossulensis,Carasobarbusluteus, Carassiusauratus, Cyprinuscarpio, Heteropneustusfossilis, Leuciscusvorax, Liza abu, L.carinata, Luciobarbusxanthopterus, Mesopotamichthyssharpeyi, TenualosailishaandSilurustriostegus. In addition, Mastacembelusmastacembeluswas observed, which has economic importance but whose conservation status is unknown in Iraq.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus resident  1985  common  B2  Least Concern 
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus winter  1960-1969  present  A1, B2  Vulnerable 
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris winter  1985  present  B2  Least Concern 
African Darter Anhinga rufa resident  1915  common  B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus breeding  1985  present  A3, B3  Least Concern 
Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis breeding  1985  abundant  A1, A2, A3, B2  Endangered 
Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris resident  1985  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1968-1979  500,000-999,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed medium

Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Not assessed  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Hawizeh Marshes (Haur Al-Hawizeh) Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 137,700 is identical to site 137,700  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   major
Desert   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
unknown -
military -

Protection status  With the listing of Hawizeh as Iraq’s first Ramsar Site, a management plan was developed but remains largely unimplemented

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 Carp (1980), Georg and Savage (1970b), North (1993), Pearce (1993), Prentice (1993), Savage (1968), Ticehurst et al. (1921-1922). Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Nader, I.A. (2013). The status of the Iraqi smooth-coated otter Lutrogaleperspicillata, Hayman 1956 and Eurasian otter Lutralutra, Linnaeus 1758 in Iraq.IUCN Otter SG Bulletin 30(1): 18-30. Coad B. W. (2010). Freshwater Fishes of Iraq. PENSOFT Publishers, Sofia-Moscow. NO.93. Evans, M. I. (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East.Birdlife Conservation Series No. 2. Nature Iraq (2008a) Management Plan for the Hawizeh Marsh Ramsar Site of Iraq. Second Draft. Volume 1: Background, Vision, Principles and Annexes. A Report Prepared for the Iraq National Marshes and Wetlands Committee. December 2008. Compiled and Edited by C.D.A. Rubec. Retrieved on 16 September 2012 from Nature Iraq (2008b) Management Plan for the Hawizeh Marsh Ramsar Site of Iraq. Second Draft. Volume 2: Management Issues and Recommendation. A Report Prepared for the Iraq National Marshes and Wetlands Committee. December 2008. Compiled and Edited by C.D.A. Rubec Retrieved on 16 September 2012 from Omer, S. A., Wronski, T., Alwash, A., Maha H. E., Mohammed, O. B., Lerp, H. (2012). Evidence for persistence and a major range extension of the Arabian Smooth-coated Otter, Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli (Mustellidae, Carnivora) in Iraq. Folia Zoologica. Ramsar (2011).National Report on the Implementation of the Ramsar convention on Wetlands.National Reports to be submitted to the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, Romania, June 2012. Retrieved on 16 September 2012 from

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Hawizeh. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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