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Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture Gyps rueppellii ©Ross Warner Website

Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in northwest Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, by Senegal on the southwest, by Mali on the east and southeast, by Algeria on the northeast, and by the Morocco-controlled Western Sahara on the northwest. It is named after the ancient Berber kingdom of Mauretania. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.

At 397,929 square miles (1,030,700 km²),[16] Mauritania is the world's 29th-largest country (after Bolivia). It is comparable in size to Egypt.

Mauritania is generally flat, its 1,030,700 square kilometers (397,850 sq mi) forming vast, arid plains broken by occasional ridges and clifflike outcroppings. A series of scarps face southwest, longitudinally bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau, reaching an elevation of 500 meters (1,640 ft). Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat (also known as the Richat Structure) is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) and is the highest peak.

Approximately three quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.

A majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. With the current rises in metal prices, gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 572


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Useful Reading

The Birds of the Banc d'Arguin

Paul Isenmann La Fondation Internationale du Banc d'Arguin 2006

ISBN: 164892

Buy this book from NHBS.com


African Bird Club


Relatively few birders have been to Mauritania and ornithological surveys have been largely restricted to the coastal zone. With the Sahara Desert covering over 60% of the country and the resulting travel difficulties, this is hardly surprising. However, Mauritania has some of the most important coastal wetlands in Africa and with a species list of over 500, the intrepid birdwatcher will be well rewarded…

West African Ornithological Society


The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.


Abbreviations Key

Banc d'Arguin National Park


Satellite View

Fringing the Atlantic coast, the park is made up of sand dunes, coastal swamps, small islands and shallow coastal waters. The austerity of the desert and the biodiversity of the marine zone result in a land and seascape of exceptional contrasting natural value. A wide variety of migrating birds spend the winter there.

Diaouling Strict Nature Reserve

Satellite View

The lower delta of the River Senegal is an important collecting and breeding ground for waterfowl. Together with the Senegalese part of the delta, where the Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj is situated, this area provides an important feeding and watering site for numerous Palearctic migrants. Fewer birds breed or gather on the Mauritanian part of the delta, owing to a poorer supply of fresh water, but it provides feeding grounds for birds breeding on the opposite bank. In this respect, the proposed nature reserve will be an important complement to Djoudj which has insufficient feeding grounds. The mangrove swamp supports breeding colonies of Purple Heron…

Diawling National Park


Satellite View

Until the sixties the lower delta of the Senegal river was an area of extraordinary ecological richness. Consisting of a mosaic of dunes, floodplains and estuarine zones with mangroves, the area was known for its rich birdlife (Naurois 1969) and important fisheries (Reizer 1971). Several tens of thousand of people, practising a variety of activities, found a livelihood there. Since then the environmental quality has deteriorated, first by the diminishing floods and rainfall, later by the alterations brought about by the large-scale hydraulic engineering works under the authority of the OMVS, Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Sénégal, a trilateral organisation grouping Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.



The Saharan-Sindian biome covers much of the north and centre of the country whilst the southern third of the country falls within the Sahel biome. 14 species belonging to each of these biomes has been recorded. In addition, small elements of the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome are found in the extreme south of the country and 12 species of this biome have been recorded. The most important site ornithologically is the Banc d’Arguin which periodically supports the largest concentration of migratory waders in Africa, more than 2 million birds…

Trip Reports

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2004 [02 February] - Ignacio Yúfera


Mauritania is a little known and seldom-visited country with very little infrastructure, but it is very safe to travel, it offers some spectacular scenery and, above all for the birdwatching traveller, has the Banc d`Arguin National Park, an area of great importance for wintering and breeding seabirds and shorebirds…

Other Links

Biodiversity in Mauritania


Mauritania has several National Parks and Nature Reserves. Banc d`Arguin is probably the most famous. It has been put on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1989.

Mauritania Information


Mauritania is a bird watcher`s paradise: starlings, weaver birds, pelicans, cormorants, herons, terns and ducks are among the birds which can be seen. A variety species of birds can be found in the Banc d`Arguin National Park…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Ali Majdfar


Birds in Western Palearctic - Mauritania Photo Gallery…