Islamic Republic of Iran
Birding in Iran
Iran (formerly called Persia); with a land area of 1,648,184 km², borders Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The country has over 2,000 km of coastline in its southern region, along the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. With 491 recorded species, Iran has a very rich and divers bird fauna, despite the fact that large portion of the country is arid to semi-arid. This diversity can be seen in eight major habitat types:
True desert and semi-desert
The desert environment occurs throughout the central desert basin from south of the capital city Tehran through the great Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut deserts to the Jaz Murian basin in central Baluchistan and locally along the southern coastal lowlands from north-west Khuzestan to Baluchistan. Bird species include:Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata, Oenanthe monacha and A. cincturus,Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Desert Warbler Sylvia nana, Hooded Wheataer Oenanthe deserti & Oenanthe monacha and Trumpeter Finch Rhodopechys githaginea.
Much of Iran's land surface supports a steppe vegetation dominated by the low shrub Artemisia herbaalba. The steppe is home to many of Iran's commonest and most widespread birds. Characteristic species include: Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis, European Roller Coracias garrulous, European Bee-eater Merops apiaster, several species of lark, including the ubiquitous Crested Lark Galerida cristata, Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina and Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala.
The Alborz and Zagros mountains and the higher peaks of mountain ranges in Azerbaijan, Khorasan, Kerman and Baluchistan provinces support a mountain fauna typical of all high mountain ranges of Western Europe to the Himalayas. Species include: Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba, Eurasian Crag-martin Hirundo rupestris, Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris, Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris, Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros, Wall Creeper Tichodroma muraria and Snow Finch Montifringilla nivalis. Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caspius, confined to high mountain ranges in Turkey and Iran, is locally common on the higher peaks in the Alborz and Zagros.
Forests and woodland
Although of rather limited extent, Iran's forested regions have a very rich bird fauna barely different from that of a central European woodland. Common species include: Woodpigeon Columba palumbus, Green woodpecker Picus viridis, Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis, Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Jay Garrulus glandarius, Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, Dunnock Prunella modularis, Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina, Robin Erithacus rubecula, Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, several species of Turdus, several species of Tit Parus, and Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. The drier and more open oak woodlands of the western Zagrous have a Mediterranean element and includes species such as Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus, Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus, Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica and Rock Bunting Emberiza cineracea.
In the even drier woodlands in the eastern Zagros, the Kerman highlands, and isolated mountains in northern Baluchistan, only a handful of western Palearctic species occur. Characteristic birds here include a mixture of Middle Eastern specialties, e.g. White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis and Plain Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus neglectus, eastern Palaearctic species, e.g. Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus and Hume's Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia althaea, Indo-Malayan species, e.g. Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus and western Palaearctic species at the extreme edge of their ranges. e.g. Blackbird Turdus merula. Finally, throughout the remoter mountain ranges of Iran there still exist good stands of juniper woodland with specialties such as Red-Fronted Serin Serinus pusillus and, in the northeast, White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes.
The southern lowlands
The hot tropical climate of the southern coastal lowlands supports a flora and fauna quite unlike that of the rest of Iran. From northwest Khuzestan to eastern Iranian Baluchistan, open park-like stands of Acacia, Prosopis and tamarix and extensive date palm groves provide suitable habitats for a variety of Indo-Malayan/Afro-tropical species, such as Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis, Green Bee Eater Merops orientalis, White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis, Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis, Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus, Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica and Yellow-Throated Sparrow Petronia xanthocollis. A number of species of Indo-Malayan origin, such as Indian Sand Lark Calandrella raytal, Common Myna Acridotheres tristis, and Sind Sparrow Passer pyrrhonotus, are confined to extreme south-east Iranian Baluchistan, while several others extend only as far west as the Bandar Abbas region, e.g. White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa, Indian Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus and Sind Woodpecker Dendrocopos assimilis. In the west, the riverside poplar thickets and marsh-edge habitat of Khuzestan hold several specialties, such as Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus, Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris and Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus.
The south Caspian Sea, with 700km of sandy shoreline, and the freshwater lakes, marshes and brackish lagoons in central Gilan, the Gorgan Bay area, and the Turkoman steppes provide a complex of breeding and wintering areas for waterfowl. Estimates for mid-winter population of ducks, geese, swan and coots are well over a million birds, with perhaps as many birds occurring on passage in spring and autumn. In addition, there are large wintering populations of Pelecanus crispus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber, grebe herons and egrets, shorebirds and gulls. During the spring and autumn migration seasons, large numbers of shorebirds pass through the south Caspian on their way between breeding grounds in the Arctic and wintering grounds in the Persian Gulf and eastern and southern Africa, and in summer the marshes teem with breeding Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, herons, egrets, gallinules including Purple Swamphen Porphyrio prophyrio, and Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus.
The other major wetland areas in Iran are not less spectacular. The wetlands around the highly saline Lake Urmiya support large breeding colonies of waterfowl, notably Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber, Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Shelduck Tradorna tradorna, Ruddy Shelduck Tradorna ferruginea, Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Armenian Gull Larus armenicus and Slender-billed Gull Larus genei. These wetlands are important for passage shorebirds and in mild winters can hold over 50.000 wintering ducks and geese.
The flood-plains of the Dez-Karun and Karkheh rivers in Khuzestan, the complex for fresh, brackish and saline lakes at the inland delta of Hiramnd river in Sistan of the Afghan border, and the network of fresh and saline lakes in central Fars, particularly Bakhtegan, Tashk, Maharlu, Parishan lakes and the dasht-e Arjan marshes all provide habitat for many hundreds of thousand of wintering waterfowl. In addition to a wide range of ducks, geese and shorebirds, these wetlands are particularly important for wintering of Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus (Fars and Sistan); Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus (Khuzestan); White stork Ciconia ciconia (Khuzestans and Fars); Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber (Fars) and Common Crane Grus grus (all three areas). In years of good rainfall, wetlands in all three regions can be of great importance for breeding waterfowl, particularly herons, egrets, Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus, White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus and Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola.
Persian Gulf and Makran coastal habitats
The tidal mudflats, mangrove, sand beaches, rocky shores and sea-cliffs of Iran's south coast support a variety of breeding and wintering waterfowl and seabirds. Breeding species include Crab Plover Dromas ardeola, Great Thick-knee Burhinus recurvirostris (only in the sea); several species of herons and egrets such as Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii, Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis and Goliath Heron Ardea goliath (in mangrove); and several species of terns. Wintering species include Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, and also many shorebirds notably African Black Oystercatcher Heamatopus ostralegus, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Curlew Numenius arquata and Plovers Charadrius spp. , Scuas Stercorarius spp. , Gulls Larus spp. , and Terns Sterna spp.
The many small and uninhabited islands in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz provide ideal breeding grounds for large colonies of seabirds. The main species are: Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii, Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis, White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa and Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus, but small colonies of Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus, Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis and Saunders`s Tern Sterna saundersihave been found, and Persian Shearwater Puffinus persicus probably breeds.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 525
Number of endemics: 1
Although Iran has no true endemic species, one species, Pleske Ground Jay Posoces Pleskei, which occurs widely in the deserts of central and eastern Iran, is almost confined to the country, and is known elsewhere only in extreme western Pakistan.
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Birds of the Middle East
By Richard Porter, Simon Aspinall, A Birch, John Gale, Mike Langman, Brian E Small | Christopher Helm | 2010 | Paperback | 384 pages, 176 colour plates, 636 colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 9780713676020Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Lion and the Gazelle: The Mammals and Birds of Iran
By PN Humphreys & E Kahrom | IB Tauris | 1997 | Hardback | 224 pages, Col & b/w photos, b/w illus, maps |
ISBN: 1860642292Buy this book from NHBS.com
Protection and International Conventions
Environmental protection measures in the country have started since 1950s. At present there are four types of protected areas: National Parks (Seven); Wildlife Refuges (23); Protected Areas (43); National Nature Monuments (Four). Iran is party to the Ramsar Convention and World Heritage Convention. As of December 1993 Iran had designated 18 Ramsar sites (covering a total of 1,357,550 ha) but no Natural World Heritage Sites. All the Ramsar sites are major birds and wildlife areas. Iran has signed (but not ratified) the Biodiversity Convention. It participated in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme and, as of December 1999, had designated nine Biosphere Reserves (covering a total area of 2,609,731 ha). Iran has ratified the Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution and the Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Gulf, Marine and the Coastal Areas. A joint agreement was signed with the USSR in 1973 to fight pollution in the Caspian Sea.
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
I'm a birding and trekking guide based in Tehran with a keen interest in history
The country - with 1,640,000 square kilometers area, in the south-west of Asia- of the northern hemisphere, has its specific combination of different elements of life and a special ecosystem and biodiversity due to various factors including different climatic conditions, high mountains all around and a large desert in center….
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2010 [09 September] - Jos Stratford
Few birders visit Iran, fewer still that travel independently. But leave aside the preconceptions and venture beyond the media stereotype, the country is truly an amazing place, inhabited by a most gracious people and blessed with a culture second to none and landscapes that incorporate all from high Alpine peaks and lush green valleys through to vast desert vistas, stark coastlines and shimmering marine environments dotted with corals, intertidal flats and mangroves. And then there are the birds - along with an impressive array of desert and mountain species and an unrivalled selection of waterbirds, Iran is home to some mighty fine specialities, including Grey Hypocolius, Iraqi Babbler, Sind Pied Woodpecker and, the jewel in the crown, inhabiting the remote deserts of the interior, the enigmatic Pleske's Ground Jay…
2011 [02 February] - Ali Alieslam
...I had no idea of what it might be! I had found the bird in the remote village of Alayie, north of the small town of Lirdaf and some 40 km from the sea of Oman. The village was not accessible by road and was inhabited by only a couple of families. The only habitat for woodland birds was a big palm garden c200 m from the capars (the small round houses made of woven palm fronds of the local people), and this was the only haven in this mountainous arid habitat...
2011 [04 April] - Björn Anderson
… In the other direction of the country, we were pleased to find the two specialties Sind Woodpecker and Afghan Babbler. In addition to this we enjoyed a whole billboard full of Middle Eastern and Central Asian birds like Egyptian Nightjar, Grey-necked Bunting, Saunders ́s Tern, Hypocolius, Dead Sea Sparrow, Caspian Snowcock, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Hume ́s, Persian and Variable Wheatears, Macqueen ́s Bustard, Upcher ́s Warbler and many more….
2012 [04 April] - Jos Stratford
…Birding was excellent throughout, starting with Pleske's Ground Jay at Shahr-e-Babek, then a good range of species on Mount Damavand, before descending to Fereydoon Kenar on the Caspian coast, the undoubted highlight being the spectacular Siberian Crane…
2014 [07 July] - Jens Thalund
Isn't it dangerous? That was the most common response I got, when I told just about anyone, that I would be going to Iran on a two week birdingtrip. The short and simple answer to that is: NO. Not only was the birding outstanding, but the people I met were some of the most warm and honest I have ever encountered. It's the first place, that I've experienced people stopping me in the street, just to say ”Welcome to Iran”, and taxi-drivers handing me back money, when I mistakingly paid with a too large banknote! Do not judge a country by what you see on the News.
2016 [04 April] - Simon Papps
On the basis of this tour, Iran looks set to become one of the world's 'must visit' birding destinations in the coming years. The country covers a vast area and the range of bird species is therefore equally as diverse as its habitats, which encompass deserts, swamps, high mountains and paddyfields. We connected with Iran's two endemics – Pleske's Ground-Jay and Caspian Tit – together with many range-restricted regional specialities which are shared with neighbouring countries, including Sind Woodpecker, Sand Lark, Basra Reed-Warbler, Grey Hypocoleus, Mesopotamian Crow, Iraq Babbler and Black-headed Penduline-Tit. Add to that the likes of Crab Plover, Radde's Accentor, Pied Bushchat, Grey-necked Bunting, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Dead Sea Sparrow, Pallid Scops-Owl, Spotted Owlet, Great Knot, Shikra, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Marbled Teal and a wide variety of wheatears and you have the ingredients of a fantastic tour. The friendly people and excellent food are an added bonus.
2016 [11 November] - Jouko Hogmander
We made an interesting tour to southern and southwestern Iran between Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, 2016. Our group consisted of five birdwatchers from Finland: Jouko Hogmander (writer of this report), Tuija Nikula, Timo Kurki, Matti Lahtinen and Tuija Lahtinen, none of us keen twitcher but interested in seeing new views with nice birds. We had an excellent guide, Mr. Ali Alieslam from Pasargad Tours, a company which makes logistics work with long experience of nature and culture tours in Iran. Ali was very good in finding birds – and in alluring them to show up for curious birders.
2017 [02 February] - Oscar Campbell - Shiraz
This was a short, but fun and successful smash-and-grab trip targeting primarily Pleske’s Ground-Jay in the Shiraz area of Iran by two UAE-based birders. Given that very few trip reports from Iran are available on Cloudbirders, none of which seem to have covered the sites we visited, we thought that a detailed trip report might be useful both to give an outline of the outstanding birding (and mammal watching) opportunities available close to Shiraz and to encourage others to go to this fascinating and friendly country.
2017 [02 February] - Per Øystein - Khuzestan Province
Ehsan Talebi - Birding Iran
My name is Ehsan Talebi and I live in Tehran. I am an M.s. student in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management at SBU and birding and trekking guide. If you need any information about birdwatching in Iran, please feel free to contact me by my email: mailto:email@example.com
Bird list of Northen Iran
(South eastern part of the Caspian sea) - Bird names are taken mostely from Geese, Swans, Ducks of IRAN, by Behrouz Behrouzi-Rad (1994) and The birds of Iran by Dep. of the Environment (1975). To avoid confusion (I hope) I also added the Scientific names and the English names. There is also a photo gallery.
Birds of Iran
Iran's birds are vast in variety and some are among the world's rarest. You can find about 485 different kinds of Birds in this country…
My interest in birds dates back to my childhood, but I started serious birdwatching in 1982. There are more than 450 species of birds in Iran. I have set a goal of seeing all these species and so far have been able to see more than 300 of them…
Not in English - terrific photos and, presumably, descriptions…
Of 324 breeding species, 131 occur widely in the Palearctic region, 81 are Western Palearctic species, reaching the easternmost extremities of their ranges in Iran, while 19 are typically Eastern Palearctic species, reaching the westernmost tip of their ranges in Iran.
Information on 18 designated areas…