Egypt has a considerable range of habitat and vegetation which support in turn a diversity of fauna. It lies at the junction of four bio-geographical regions: Sahara-Sindian which is represented in the vast deserts; Iran-Turanian which occupies a small area in the Sinai highlands; Mediterranean which occupies a small area along the Mediterranean coast; and Afrotropical.
The Nile supports most of the country's wetlands which are some of Egypt's most important habitats supporting the greatest diversity and density of bird species. The major inland wetland areas are as follows: the Bitter Lakes; Wadi El Natrun; Lake Qarun; Wadi El Rayan Lakes and Nile river and Lake Nasser. There are six major coastal lagoons on the Mediterranean: Bardawil; Malaha; Manzala; Burullus; Idku and Maryut. The Red Sea coastal habitats and wetlands include mudflats, reefs, mangroves and marine islands. Oases are the only source of water over much of the western desert, the principal ones being Maghra, Siwa, Wadi El Rayan, Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Kharga, Kurkur and Dungul.
Egypt has no endemic or restricted range species although White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus is endemic to the Red Sea. There are 18 species with relatively small world distributions for which Egypt constitutes an important part of their range. Perhaps the most important is that group restricted to the Sahara-Sindian biome.
Egypt has a strategic position geographically along the migration routes of Palearctic species which winter in Africa and hence internationally important numbers migrate through Egypt. There are several migration bottlenecks for example the areas of Suez, Hurghada and Zaranik. Large numbers of Palearctic migrants and especially waterbirds also winter in Egypt.
A total of 34 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified which cover an area of 35,000 km2 or some 3.5% of Egypt's territory. Wetland habitats are represented in 25 IBAs, mountain and wadi desert and desert plains in 13, and coastal deserts in 6. The majority of the IBAs are to the east of the Nile which indicates the lack of suitable avian habitat in much of the western deserts. Sinai holds a disproportionately large number of the IBAs which reflects its diversity of habitats as well as its unique bio-geographical location.
The following IBAs are located in North Sinai: Lake Bardawil has large wintering populations of Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber; Zaranik Protected Area is an extension of Lake Bardawil on its eastern side and is important as a bottleneck for migrant waterbirds; Gebel Maghara has a great diversity of land forms and desert habitats and as a result, holds a unique combination of species including a large proportion of Egypt's Sahara-Sindian biome restricted species and seven breeding lark species including Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti, Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla and Dunn's Lark Eremalauda dunni; Quseima includes two drinking water sources at Ain El Gedeirat and Ain Qadis which are important for Pin-tailed Pterocles alchata, Black-bellied P. orientalis, Spotted P. senegallus and Crowned Sandgrouse P. coronatus and this IBA is the only known site in Egypt for breeding Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. Wadi Gerafi holds nearly all of Egypt's Sahara-Sindian species and is one of the few areas in Egypt for a breeding (in small numbers) and wintering subspecies of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii which some authorities consider to be a full species MacQueen's Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii.
The following IBAs are located in South Sinai: Tiran island at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba has breeding Sooty Falcon Falco concolor, Osprey Pandion haliaetus and seven waterbird species including Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia and White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus; Nabq Protected Area contains mountain and wadi desert habitats which support Sahara-Sindian species and waterbirds which breed in the mangroves along the Red Sea; St Katherine Protectorate occupies much of the central part of South Sinai and contains Egypt's highest peaks and holds most of Egypt's Sahara-Sindian biome species and is an outpost for Verreaux's Eagle Aquila verreauxii, Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus, Tristram's Grackle Onychognathus tristramii, and Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus; El Qa plain is important for thousands of soaring migratory birds in both autumn and spring; and Ras Mohammed National Park is a headland at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula which has primary importance as a bottleneck for migratory birds with an estimated 12,000 per day resting during peak autumn migration.
Gebet El Zeit is on the west side of the Gulf of Suez from El Qa plain and has a similar role for soaring migratory birds with birds of prey such as European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus, Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo and Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis most numerous in spring.
Hurghada archipelago has 22 uninhabited islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez which hold the world's largest known population of White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus as well as 15 other breeding species.
Further south are five more IBAs along the Red Sea all of which are important for breeding seabirds: Wadi Gimal island; Qulan islands; Zabargad island; Siyal islands and Rawabel islands.
The Abraq area is a complex of sandstone hills and wadis which drain into the Red Sea. The area holds a large proportion of Egypt's Sahara-Sindian species and provides important watering areas for Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse P. Lichtensteinii. Gebel Elba encompasses a cluster of coastal mountains which overlook the Red Sea immediately to the north of the Sudan border and hold species such as Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus, Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva, Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus and Rosy-patched Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus.
Suez is situated at the head of the Gulf of Suez, the most northerly part of the Red Sea. Its position on the only land bridge between Africa and Eurasia makes it an important bottleneck for migratory soaring birds. Ain Sukhna is also at the north of the Gulf of Suez and is situated along a major route for Palearctic migrants with species such as Black Kite Milvus migrans, Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis and Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus.
The following three sites are in the Nile valley in the south of Egypt: Upper Nile is between Luxor and Kom Ombo and has the highest concentration of wintering waterbirds in Egypt including Red-crested Pochard Nettina rufina and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca; Aswan reservoir is between the old Aswan Dam and the High Dam with wintering Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, Common Pochard Aythya ferina and Tufted Duck A. fuligula; Lake Nasser which is one of the world's largest man made lakes with wintering Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus and breeding Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis and Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus.
Several IBAs are situated on or close to the Mediterranean coast: El Malaha which holds some of the highest densities and numbers of wintering and breeding waterbirds in the country with a large breeding colony of Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei; Lake Manzala located in the north-eastern corner of the Nile delta has huge numbers of wintering waterbirds including large colonies of Little Gulls Larus minutus and Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybrida as well as 35 known breeding species including Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus, Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola and Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius; Lake Burullus Protected Area which is also important for wintering waterfowl and has breeding Little Tern Sterna albifrons, Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis and Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis; Lake Idku and Lake Maryut.
El Qasr desert is in the north-west of the country and supports species restricted to both Mediterranean and Sahara-Sindian biomes. It is one of the least known areas in Egypt ornithologically and in recent years Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clothey, Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens and Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens have been found to breed.
The following sites are important for wintering waterbirds: Wadi El Natrun is situated west of the Nile delta; Lake Qarun Protected Area is further south and holds large numbers of waterfowl in winter; Wadi El Rayan Protected Area is to the south-west of the previous IBA; and Bitter Lakes.
For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.