THE DIURNAL BIRDS OF PREY (RAPTORS) IN THE MESOPOTAMIAN MARSHES OF SOUTHERN IRAQ WITH NOTES ON THEIR CONSERVATION STATUS
Birds of prey (Raptors) are top predator avian species that many migrate annually through Mesopotamian marshes in southern Iraq toward their wintering grounds in Arabia and Africa, while others are breeding residents; however, information on their current status is scarce. From January 2016 to April 2019, a total of 20 field expeditions were conducted in the geographical zone of the Mesopotamian marshes, wetlands of international importance. The survey covered the Central Marshes, Al-Hammar and Hawizeh Marsh. One of the objectives of the field surveys is to list the raptors species that wintering and/or migrating through the Mesopotamian marshes and to understand their current spatial and temporal distribution. In the present study, a total of 32 species of diurnal raptors are recorded through intensive field observations, reviewing literature records, and personal communications of unpublished data. Moreover, eight species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN Red List are recorded which highlight the ecological importance of the Mesopotamian marshes as a major stopover site for globally threatened raptors. Besides species persecution, observed threats such as habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution were severely influencing birds of prey communities in the Mesopotamian marshes which warrant further conservation actions.
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