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Location Saudi Arabia, Ha'il
Central coordinates 41o 38.00' East  27o 40.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, B1i, B1iv, B2, B3
Area 400,000 ha
Altitude 800 - 1,550m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Saudi Wildlife Commission (Affiliate)

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.

Key Biodiversity 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.

Non-bird 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi resident  1993  abundant  B3  Least Concern 
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus resident  1992  100 breeding pairs  medium  B2  Least Concern 
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus resident  1993  10-100 breeding pairs  good  B2  Endangered 
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo passage  1993  5,600 individuals  good  A4i, B1i, B2  Least Concern 
Hume's Owl Strix butleri resident  1993  present  B3  Least Concern 
Menetries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea passage  1993  common  B3  Least Concern 
Menetries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea winter  1993  common  B3  Least Concern 
White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis passage  1993  present  B3  Least Concern 
Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii passage  1993  present  B3  Least Concern 
Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii winter  1993  present  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  A1, B2  Near Threatened 
A4iv Species group - soaring birds/cranes passage  1993  5,600 individuals  good  B1iv   

IBA Monitoring

2013 low not assessed negligible

Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Not assessed  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   major
Desert   major
Rocky areas   minor

Land use

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

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Dr Stephen F. Newton and P. Symens.

References Newton and Symens (1993), Newton et al. (1993), Symens et al. (1992).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Jabal Aja and Northern Ha'il. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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