Islamic Republic of Iran

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola ©Steve Arlow Website
Birding 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.

Semi-arid steppeMuch 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.

High mountainsThe 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 woodlandAlthough 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 lowlandsThe 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.

WetlandsThe 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 habitatsThe 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.

Offshore IslandsThe 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.

  • Ali Parsa


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 532

    As at July 2018
  • 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.
  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • 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: 9780713676020 Buy this book from
  • 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: 9781860642296 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • 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.
  • Birdlife

    Dr Jamshid Mansoori, Ornithology Unit, Dept of the Environment, P0 Box 5181, Tehran 15875 Iran. +98 21 8071665;
  • Green Party of Iran

    This is a pollitical party but is very involved in conservation within Iran.
  • Tarlan Birdwatching Group

    Iranian birding club
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Ehsan Talebi

    I'm a birding and trekking guide based in Tehran with a keen interest in history
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [07 July] - Jens Thalund

    PDF Report
    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 [11 November] - Jouko Hogmander

    PDF Report
    We made an interesting tour to southern and southwestern Iran between Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, 2016. Ourgroup 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 viewswith nice birds. We had an excellent guide, Mr. Ali Alieslam from Pasargad Tours, a company which makeslogistics 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

    PDF Report
    This was a short, but fun and successful smash-and-grab trip targeting primarily Pleske’s Ground-Jay inthe Shiraz area of Iran by two UAE-based birders. Given that very few trip reports from Iran are available onCloudbirders, none of which seem to have covered the sites we visited, we thought that a detailed trip report might beuseful both to give an outline of the outstanding birding (and mammal watching) opportunities available close to Shirazand to encourage others to go to this fascinating and friendly country.
  • 2017 [02 February] - Per Øystein - Khuzestan Province

    PDF Report
  • 2017 [05 May] - Henk Hendriks

    PDF Report
    We mainly focussed on our target species and in the process of achieving this we just waited what we would get. We did not record a big list during this trip.My personal 5 targets were Sind Woodpecker, Caspian Tit, Mesopotamian Crow, Black-headed Penduline-Titand Pleske’sor Iranian Ground Jay. And I succeeded in this.
  • 2017 [11 November] - Sander Bruylants

    PDF Report
    ...Walking along the coast towards the flats, birds came in nicely: Purple Sunbirdsin the park with Green Bee-eatersand some Pallid Swifts. The tidal area started to grow and Dunlins, Little Stints, Sanderlings, Ringed-, Kentish-, Grey-and Great Sand Plovercame into sight. Terek Sandpiperwas rather common and some Marsh Sandpiperswere around...
  • 2018 [04 April] - Carlos Bocos

    PDF Report
    ...Eager for some birding, we headed straight out after lunchto some nearby wetlandsin the search ofone of the highlights of the trip, the Sistan Scrub Sparrow. This poorly known bird, seen by a tiny number of peopleand only found in the Sistan basin, that covers a small areaeither side of the border, was refound by Carlos in 2014, when the Sistan Wetlands were completely flooded. Unfortunately, a terrible drought dried the wetlandsin the past couple of years, and despite visiting areas...
  • 2018 [05 May] - Fabian Schneider

    We prospect mainly the Elburz Mountain range between Semnan and Tabriz to study the hybridization zone between Pied Wheatear and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears. Most of the visited sites correspond to the different samples places. The year before we covered the area between Mashhad and Baladeh (North of Tehran).
  • 2018 [06 June] - Fabian Schneider

    We prospect mainly the Elburz Mountain range between Mashhad and Baladeh (North of Tehran) to study the hybridization zone between Pied Wheatear and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears. Most of the visited sites correspond to the different samples places.
  • 2019 [01 January] - Paul Vossen

    PDF Report
    To escape Christmas and New Year, Iran was our sunny destination this time. As the country is as big as UK, Germany, France and Spain together and my two sons of 17 and 15 are not interested in birdwatching, I decided just to visit the Central,- and the Southeast part of the country, avoiding the cold north and because of lack of time the swampy Southwest.
  • 2019 [04 April] - Remco Hofland

    PDF Report
    Supporting cast were many localised species such as Hypocolius, Macqueen’s Bustard, Egyptian Nightjar, Grey-necked Bunting, SOUTHERN two-thirds of IRAN, 11-29 April 2019, Remco Hofland 27-page text-only report 2 Pale Rockfinch, See-see Partridge, Iraq Babbler, Greater Spotted Eagle, Pallas’s Gull, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Semicollared Flycatcher, White-throated Robin, Streaked Scrub Warbler, dozens breeding-plumaged Broad-billed Sandpipers and, especially if you count Iran as being part of the Western Palearctic, Great Stone-curlew, Bay-backed Shrike, Grey Francolin, Sand Lark, Spotted Owlet, White-breasted Waterhen, Pied Bush Chat, Common Myna, Crested Honey-Buzzard, Sykes’s Warbler, Shikra, Saunders’s & White-cheeked Tern, Variable & Hume’s Wheatear, Indian Roller, White-eared Bulbul & Indian Silverbill. Hundreds of Black-headed Bunting heading north one morning was also a memorable sight, as was personal favorite Greater Hoopoe-Lark (displaying). And all that in 30% of our time.
  • 2019 [12 December] - Leander Khil

    PDF Report
    Purpose of this trip was taxonomic research on Lesser Whitethroats and taking part in an environmental education program carried out by the Qeshm Environmental Conservation Institute (QECI) and their partners. We want to thank the German Ornithologists‘ Society (DO-G) and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME) for supporting these projects. Birding was done inbetween and during the project times. All observations have been reported to as well. After trips in 2014 and 2016, this was our second (MSU)/third (LKH) stay on Qeshm and we are eager to continue to explore this gorgeous island!
Other Links
  • 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 has been blessed by a huge variety in biodiversity. The country covers an area of 164.8 million hectares of Iranian plateau and sits on the intersection of three biogeography zones.
  • Birdwatching

    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
  • Iranian birds

    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.
  • 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:

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