|Location||Saudi Arabia, Ha'il|
|Central coordinates||41o 38.00' East 27o 40.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i, B1i, B1iv, B2, B3|
|Altitude||800 - 1,550m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See box for key species. The site is crucially important for two species. It seems to lie at the centre of the spring flyway for the threatened African-wintering population of Grus virgo, and may be the best site for assessing the population size; flocks use both desert and agricultural habitats. Other breeding species include Tachymarptis melba (probable), Eremalauda dunni, Eremophila bilopha, Passer hispaniolensis, Rhodopechys obsoleta and R. githaginea. A wide range of raptors passes through in spring, and migration of swifts and passerines (especially larks, hirundines and wheatears) can be spectacular; migrants are attracted to agricultural areas in dry years, but otherwise prefer natural habitats.
Site description Jabal Aja (27°30'N 41°30'E, 200,000 ha) lies west and south-west of Ha'il city and is an extensive outcrop of granite mountains with deep valleys. The site is extended north-east to the edge of the Nafud Desert to include an area used for surveys of migrant Grus virgo (Jibal at-Tuwal and Dilan al-Jilf, 27°50'N 41°45'E, 200,000 ha)-an area of flattish semi-desert and sandstone hills, punctuated by medium-altitude granitic mountains with deep valleys. The climate is fairly benign (altitude 800-1,550 m), and the area is one of the greenest in northern Arabia; in wet springs the desert and sandstone hills bloom, and many ephemeral pools and lakes are formed. Valleys in granite mountains are often lined with many Acacia trees. Much of the crane survey area is under wheat cultivation by pivot irrigation systems.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi||resident||1993||abundant [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus||resident||1993||10-100 breeding pairs||good||B2||Endangered|
|Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus||resident||1992||100 breeding pairs||medium||B2||Least Concern|
|Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo||passage||1993||5,600 individuals||good||A4i, B1i, B2||Least Concern|
|Hume's Owl Strix butleri||resident||1993||present [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Menetries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea||passage||1993||common [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Menetries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea||winter||1993||common [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis||passage||1993||present [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii||passage||1993||present [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii||winter||1993||present [units unknown]||-||B3||Least Concern|
|Pale Rock Sparrow Petronia brachydactyla||breeding||1993||1,000 breeding pairs||poor||B3||Least Concern|
|Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea||passage||1993||present [units unknown]||-||A1, B2||Near Threatened|
|A4iv Species group - soaring birds/cranes||passage||1993||5,600 individuals||good||B1iv|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial landscapes (terrestrial)||major|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
Other biodiversity Mammals: Felis margarita (K), Canis lupus (V) and Capra nubiana (I). Flora: the site is of high botanical interest. Reptiles and amphibians: the area may have functioned as a Pleistocene refuge during ice-ages.
Management considerations Jabal Aja is proposed as a Special Nature Reserve, Natural Reserve, Resource Use Reserve and Controlled Hunting Reserve, and establishment is proceeding. A management plan is being developed by local government, NCWCD and King Abdulaziz University, while NCWCD has established a monitoring programme for key species. The proximity of Jabal Aja to Ha'il city makes it popular for recreation, and there are threats from uncontrolled road and house building. Feral donkeys are present but probably affect bird populations relatively little. Semi-desert areas adjacent to agricultural zones are heavily grazed but seem able to recover after wet winters/springs.
References Newton and Symens (1993), Newton et al. (1993), Symens et al. (1992).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Jabal Aja and Northern Ha'il. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013
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