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Location Iraq, Al-Basrah,Dhi Qar
Central coordinates 47o 3.00' East  30o 44.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
Area 1,350,000 ha
Altitude 12 - 18m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Site description The Haur Al Hammar, its surrounding marshes and neighbouring haurs and areas of temporary inundation comprise some 3,500 km2 of almost contiguous wetland habitat. The haur itself is the largest lake in the lower Euphrates, approximately 120 km long by up to 25 km wide. It is bordered in the north by the River Euphrates, in the west by the Southern Desert and in the east by the Shatt Al Arab. The lake is eutrophic, and generally shallow with a maximum depth of about 1.8 m at low-water levels in early winter and about 3.0 m at high-water levels in late spring. Large parts of the littoral zone dry out during periods of low water and banks and islands appear in many places. The hydrology of the lake is not clear: its main source of water re-charge appears to be the Euphrates, but it may also receive a very substantial amount of water from the Tigris via the Central Marshes (see site 038), and there is presumably also some re-charge from groundwater. The Euphrates flows through the marshes and joins the Tigris at Qarmat Ali, where the combined flow becomes the Shatt Al Arab. Habitats include open, fairly shallow water, vast reedbeds, broad muddy shores, sedge marsh and marsh-edge vegetation, moist arable land, irrigation ponds, rainwater pools, communication dams, artificial islands with villages, rice and sugar-cane polders and date-palm groves. Emergent vegetation is dominated by beds of Phragmites and Typha with some Cyperus papyrus and Arundo, as well as many other aquatics, both floating (Nymphoides, Nymphaea, Nuphar, Pistia, Lemna) and submerged (Vallisneria, Potamogeton, Myriophyllum, Ceratophyllum, Chara, Najas, Salvinia). The marshes are rich in fish, and an estimate of the annual catch, published in 1966, was 30,000 tonnes, of which 70% were Cyprinidae. The local people, the Ma'dan (Marsh Arabs), are ethnologically and culturally distinct, and have lived in the area for at least 5,000 years. Fishing and wildfowl hunting are a major part of the local economy, and there is considerable dependence on reeds for forage for domestic buffalo, for house building and for the construction of floating islands for villages.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Pintail Anas acuta winter  1973-1979  6,608-12,200 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1973-1979  5,440-10,830 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1973-1979  3,514-6,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1973-1979  4,479-12,400 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Teal Anas crecca winter  1973-1979  25,968-59,600 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris breeding  1997  50-249 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula winter  1973-1979  23,040-42,280 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala winter  1973  1 individuals  poor  A4i, B2  Endangered 
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris winter  1985  1 individuals  poor  B2  Least Concern 
Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax winter  1973-1975  25-1,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea winter  1973-1975  166-272 individuals  poor  B1i  Least Concern 
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath resident  1985  rare  B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1973-1979  1,272-1,741 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  1973-1979  81-243 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus winter  1973-1979  6-48 individuals  poor  A1, B2  Least Concern 
African Darter Anhinga rufa resident  1985  unknown  B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  1979  8 individuals  poor  B2  Vulnerable 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  1985  3 individuals  poor  B2  Vulnerable 
Common Coot Fulica atra winter  1973-1979  53,285-121,455 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1973-1975  26-277 individuals  poor  B1i  Not Recognised 
Charadrius alexandrinus resident  1985  abundant  B1i  Not Recognised 
Charadrius alexandrinus winter  1973-1979  680-6,383 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  1973-1975  142-355 individuals  poor  B1i  Near Threatened 
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris winter  1979  6 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Critically Endangered 
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris passage  1979  1 individuals  poor  A1, A4i  Critically Endangered 
Dunlin Calidris alpina winter  1973-1975  192-2,125 individuals  poor  B1i  Least Concern 
Larus michahellis winter  1973-1979  230-878 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia winter  1973-1975  7-104 individuals  poor  B1i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida winter  1973-1979  31-356 individuals  poor  B1i  Least Concern 
Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis breeding  1985  common  A1, A2, B2  Endangered 
Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris resident  1985  common  A2, B3  Least Concern 
Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus breeding  1985  present  B3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1973-1979  128,000-284,000 individuals  poor  A4iii   


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

Land use

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

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

Acknowledgements Data-sheets compiled by Dr Hanna Y. Siman, Dr D. A. Scott and Pavel Ctyroky.

References Allouse (1953), Carp (1980), Georg and Savage (1970a,b), North (1993), Pearce (1993), Prentice (1993), Scott and Carp (1982), Thesiger (1954, 1964), Ticehurst et al. (1921-1922).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Haur Al Hammar. Downloaded from on 31/10/2014

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