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Location Iran, Islamic Republic of, Mazandaran
Central coordinates 53o 45.00' East  36o 50.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2
Area 97,200 ha
Altitude
Year of IBA assessment 1994





Site description Gorgan Bay is a large, shallow inlet (23,800 ha) at the extreme south-east corner of the Caspian Sea, north and east of the town of Behshahr, almost totally cut off from the open sea by the Miankaleh Peninsula (24,200 ha), which is 60 km long and averages c.2 km wide. It is low and sandy with a chain of dunes 50 m wide paralleling the Caspian Sea coast. Gorgan Bay is brackish and receives freshwater inflow from a number of small rivers and streams rising on the humid north slope of the Alborz Mountains to the south. Some freshwater marshes occur at the west end of the bay, where inflow is greatest. The rise in the level of the Caspian during the 1980s has resulted in a marked increase in the level of Gorgan Bay and re-flooding of all those bare flats at the west end of the bay which had been exposed by previous falling sea-levels. On the seaward side of the peninsula, the sandy beach has virtually disappeared and no longer provides easy vehicular access to the fishing village of Ashuradeh at the eastern tip of the peninsula. Most of the peninsula is covered with herbs and grasses, and the western half also supports scrub of scattered Punica, Crataegus, Rhamnus and Rubus. There are a few large Salix planted around some of the houses. Much of the shoreline of the bay is fringed with a broad belt of Juncus and there are some large areas of Salicornia flats. The extensive seasonally flooded marshes at the west end of the bay are dominated by Carex with clumps of Juncus and a large stand of Tamarix which spread greatly as water levels fell during the early 1970s but has since started to die back as the Caspian has risen again. Much of the peninsula is heavily grazed by sheep, goats and water buffalo.

Key Biodiversity See boxes for key species. Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is undoubtedly one of the finest bird reserves in the Palearctic. At least 288 species have been recorded, including 15 species currently listed in the IUCN Red Data Book of Threatened Animals. Of the 126 species of waterfowl which have occurred, no less than 63 have been present in internationally significant numbers. The reserve is extremely important throughout the year, supporting perhaps 250,000 waterfowl in winter and large colonies of herons, egrets, pratincoles and terns in summer. It also serves as a major staging area for migrant water- and landbirds in spring and autumn, and is the most important staging area for many species of shorebirds in the South Caspian region. The reserve is especially noted for its large wintering populations of grebes, Pelecanus crispus, Phalacrocorax carbo, herons, Phoenicopterus ruber, swans, geese, surface-feeding and diving ducks, raptors (Haliaeetus albicilla, harriers, eagles and falcons), shorebirds and gulls, and for its breeding colonies of herons and egrets, Glareola pratincola and Sterna albifrons. A wide variety of landbirds occurs on passage, and large numbers of larks, thrushes, finches and buntings remain to winter. Notable species recorded include Podiceps grisegena, Cygnus cygnus, Mergus serrator, Mergellus albellus, Aquila clanga, Pandion haliaetus (breeds), Charadrius asiaticus, Larus ichthyaetus, Sterna caspia, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Melanocorypha leucoptera, Acrocephalus agricola, Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus (common passage migrant), Remiz pendulinus and Sturnus roseus.

The 1.8 m rise in the level of the Caspian since 1978 has had a profound influence on waterfowl populations in the marshes at the west end of Gorgan Bay, which are now permanently flooded. These marshes formerly held 3,000-10,000 Anser anser, 4,000-5,000 A. erythropus and huge numbers of surface-feeding ducks. Large numbers of waterfowl continue to winter in the marshes, but now the great majority are Fulica atra, which was relatively uncommon in the 1970s (then usually 500-2,500). Only small numbers of Anser anser have been observed in recent years, and no A. erythropus since 1989. These changes in populations are clearly related to the increased water depth in the western marshes.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Phoca caspica (V) occasionally haul out on the Caspian beach.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus resident  1977  common  B2  Least Concern 
Northern Pintail Anas acuta winter  1977-1992  3,400-30,400 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus winter  1970-1977  4,900 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  1970-1977  10,020 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis winter  1975-1976  19 individuals  good  A1, B2  Endangered 
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus winter  1970-1977  16 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna winter  1977-1992  1,200-1,605 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1970-1977  20,300 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope winter  1970-1977  61,100-61,600 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos winter  1977-1992  9,800-56,600 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1970-1977  18,200 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Garganey Spatula querquedula passage  1977  3,640 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Teal Anas crecca winter  1970-1977  57,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris passage  1977  29 individuals  good  A1, B2  Vulnerable 
Common Pochard Aythya ferina winter  1977-1992  2,680-22,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula winter  1977-1992  7,750-8,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula winter  1970-1977  1,110 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator winter  1970-1977  703 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala winter  1977  20-453 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Endangered 
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata winter  1977  2 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  1970-1977  3,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1970-1977  2,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1977-1992  4,250-25,080 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia passage  1977  423 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis passage  1977  150 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta breeding  1977  100 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Egretta garzetta passage  1977  450 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides breeding  1977  200 breeding pairs  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea passage  1977  1,860 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea winter  1970-1977  630 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  1970-1977  2,685 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  1977-1992  350-690 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus winter  1977  28 individuals  good  A1  Least Concern 
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo winter  1970-1977  15,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug winter  1977  4 individuals  good  B2  Endangered 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  1977  6 individuals  good  B2  Vulnerable 
White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla resident  1977  50-100 individuals  good  B2  Least Concern 
White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla winter  1977  50-100 individuals  good  A1, B2  Least Concern 
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax breeding  1973  4 breeding pairs  medium  B2  Near Threatened 
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax winter  1972  602 individuals  good  A1, B2  Near Threatened 
Common Coot Fulica atra winter  1977-1992  19,100-50,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Himantopus himantopus passage  1977  938 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1970-1977  140 individuals  good  B1i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1970-1977  816 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Charadrius alexandrinus passage  1977  1,350 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus winter  1970-1977  1,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola passage  1977  500 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus passage  1977  1,810 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus winter  1970-1977  650 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa passage  1977  3,770 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Near Threatened 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  1970-1977  800 individuals  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus passage  1977  880 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris passage  1963  1 individuals  good  A1, A4i, B1i  Critically Endangered 
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata passage  1977  530 individuals  good  B1i  Near Threatened 
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis passage  1977  563 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres passage  1977  562 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Sanderling Calidris alba passage  1977  4,820 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Dunlin Calidris alpina winter  1970-1977  5,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola breeding  1977  500 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans passage  1977  1,850 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Mew Gull Larus canus winter  1977  400 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Pallas's Gull Larus ichthyaetus winter  1970-1977  2,250 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus winter  1970-1977  5,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei passage  1977  2,950 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus winter  1970-1977  750 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis passage  1977  1,450 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Little Tern Sternula albifrons breeding  1977  300-400 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Little Tern Sternula albifrons passage  1977  1,370 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida passage  1977  820 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1977-1992  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

1994 low not assessed not assessed
unset
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Miankaleh UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 68,800 protected area contained by site 68,800  
Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge 63,317 protected area contained by site 68,800  
Miankaleh Peninsula, Gorgan Bay and Lapoo-Zaghmarz Ab-bandan Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 100,000 protected area contains site 97,200  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   minor
Shrubland   major
Sea   minor
Coastline   major
Grassland   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 71%
rangeland/pastureland 25%

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.

References van Beuningen et al. (1975), Carp (1980), Feeny et al. (1968), Harrington and Scott (1972), Matthews (1973), Ramsar Convention Bureau (1993), Scott (1976a,b,c, 1978a, in press), Summers et al. (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/12/2014

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