Miankaleh Peninsula ‒ A Heaven For Bird Watchers

Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is located at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, the Miankaleh Peninsula separating the Bay of Gorgan from the Caspian.

The entire bay and its adjacent marshes along with the peninsula, an area of about 68,000 hectares (263 square miles), was declared a Protected Region in 1970 and a Wildlife Refuge in 1974.

The creation of such a large refuge provided shelter and security for a quarter of a million waterfowl, including especially the greater flamingo, greylag goose, lesser white-fronted goose, red-breasted merganser and the rare white-headed duck.

Within the Miankaleh Peninsula, however, excessive grazing of domestic stock, hunting and the cutting down of most of the forested areas had all but exterminated the once profuse and diverse wildlife.

But by the time the reserve was declared a Wildlife Refuge, the reappearance of wild boar, fox, jackals, jungle cats, as well as pheasants and black francolin, gave promise of recovery of the peninsula’s fauna.

Of even greater importance is the undisturbed regeneration of the peninsula vegetation, as this is perhaps the only sizeable area of the Caspian coastal ecosystems to be afforded protection.

The Miankaleh reserve remains the finest refuge in Iran for very large numbers of migratory waterfowl.

Breeding birds, in years when there has been plenty of rain in early summer, include many heron Ardeidae species.

The Pratincole Glareola pratincola nests in large colonies and along the shores Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and Little Terns Sterna albifrons are the characteristic breeding species.

The wetland is extremely important for a wide variety of waterfowl and other birds during the migrations and in the winter, including Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and many species Of Ardeidae and Ana- tidae, including various swans and geese, notably the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus.

The Lapoo-Zagmarz Ab-bandans consist of a group of muddy-bottomed fresh- water lakes and marshes, fed by irrigation canals, rainfall and run-off.

Flooding takes place in autumn and winter and the water level fluctuates considerably but is to some extent controlled, the water flowing sluggishly eastwards into the marshes at the western end of the Gorgan Bay.

Phragmites reedbeds are the dominant feature Of the vegetation but there are stands or scrubby areas of reedmace Typha, willow Salix, Currants Ribes, berries Rubus and pomegranate Punica and an abundant submersed vegetation.

Besides the Ardeidae and a few Anatidae nesting in the pond area, there is a large colony of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida.

It is also important for migrating and wintering species, especially Red-crested Pochard Nerta rufina and Coot Fulicaatra; more occasional visitors are swans Cygnus spp. and White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala

Miankaleh Wildlife Sanctuary and Wetland

  • Miankaleh Wetland – Miankaleh Peninsula

Barn Owl

The barn owl is the most widely distributed species of owl and one of the most widespread of all birds. Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons.

There are 16 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Iran. Barn owl, Tyto alba.

Barn Owl is most easily identified by its tan head and body, pale breast, triangular facial disk (most owl species have round faces) and brown eyes. Part of a small group of owls mostly found in Australasia, this species is unlikely to be confused with owl species outside of its own family. Male and female Barn Owls are similar to one another in all seasons. Barn Owls occur across much of the globe.


  • Barn owl – Miankaleh Peninsula

Collared Pratincole

The collared pratincole or common pratincole (Glareola pratincola) is a wader in the pratincole family, Glareolidae. The genus name is a diminutive of Latin glarea, “gravel”, referring to a typical nesting habitat for pratincoles. Pratincoles are unusual among waders in that they typically hunt their insect prey on the wing like swallows, although they can also feed on the ground.

The collared pratincole is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


  • Collared pratincole – Miankaleh Peninsula


Phalacrocoracidae is a family of some 40 species of aquatic birds commonly known as cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed. There is no consistent distinction between “cormorants” and “shags” as these appellations have been assigned to different species randomly.


European Bee-eater

The European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. The genus name Merops is Ancient Greek for “bee-eater”, and apiaster is Latin, also meaning “bee-eater”, from apis, “bee”. It breeds in southern Europe and in parts of north Africa and western Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in tropical Africa. This species occurs as a spring overshoot north of its range, with occasional breeding in northwest Europe.



Flamingos or flamingoes are a type of wading bird in the family Phoenicopteridae, the only family in the order Phoenicopteriformes. There are four flamingo species in the Americas and two species in the Old World.



The hoopoe is a colourful bird found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers. Three living and one extinct species are recognized, though for many years all were lumped as a single species—Upupa epops.


  • Hoopoe – Miankaleh Peninsula


Kingfishers or Alcedinidae are a family of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found outside of the Americas.


  • Kingfisher – Miankaleh Peninsula

Lesser Grey Shrike

The lesser grey shrike is a member of the shrike family Laniidae. It breeds in South and Central Europe and western Asia in the summer and migrates to winter quarters in southern Africa in the early autumn, returning in spring.


  • Lesser grey shrike – Miankaleh Peninsula

Little Egret

The little egret is a species of small heron in the family Ardeidae. The genus name comes from the Provençal French Aigrette, “egret”, a diminutive of Aigron,” heron”.


  • Little egret – Miankaleh Peninsula

The White Wagtail

The white Wagtail is a small bird. Breeds mainly in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Colour of upper part of the body is mostly grey, and the bottom is white. The white wagtail is an insectivorous bird of open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey. In urban areas it has adapted to foraging on paved areas such as car parks. It nests in crevices in stone walls and similar natural and man-made structures.


  • The white Wagtail in Khar Turan National Park Shahrood, Semnan, Iran

Little ringed plover

The little ringed plover is a small plover. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate. It derives from Ancient Greek kharadrios a bird found in river valleys.


  • Little ringed plover – Miankaleh Peninsula

Mute Swan

The mute swan is a species of swan and a member of the waterfowl family Anatidae. It is native to much of Eurasia, and the far north of Africa. It is an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa.



Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae. They are characterised by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing. They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans.


  • Pelican – Miankaleh Peninsula

Red-necked Phalarope

The red-necked phalarope is a small wader. The English and genus names for phalaropes come through French phalarope and scientific Latin phalaropus from Ancient Greek phalaris, “coot”, and pous, “foot”. Coots and phalaropes both have lobed toes.


  • Red neckedphalarope–MiankalehPeninsula

Ring-necked Pheasant

The common pheasant is a bird in the pheasant family. The genus name comes from Latin phasianus, “pheasant”. The species name colchicus is Latin for “of Colchis” a country on the Black Sea where pheasants became known to Europeans.


  • Ring neckedPheasant–MiankalehPeninsula

Corn Bunting

The corn bunting is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a group now separated by most modern authors from the finches, Fringillidae.


  • Corn Bunting Miankaleh Peninsula

Western Marsh Harrier

The western marsh harrier is a large harrier, a bird of prey from temperate and subtropical western Eurasia and adjacent Africa. It is also known as the Eurasian marsh harrier.


  • Western marsh harrier Miankaleh Peninsula

Great Grebe

The great grebe is the largest species of grebe in the world. A disjunct population exists in northwestern Peru, while the main distribution is from extreme southeastern Brazil to Patagonia and central Chile.


  • Great grebe Miankaleh Peninsula


The cuckoos are a family of birds, Cuculidae, the sole taxon in the order Cuculiformes. The cuckoo family includes the common or European cuckoo, roadrunners, koels, malkohas, couas, coucals and anis.


  • Cuckoo Miankaleh Peninsula

Hor Mansouri

Photos by: Hor Mansouri

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Khar Turan National Park, Shahrood, Semnan, Iran
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