Kuwait is situated at the extreme northwestern end of the Gulf. It comprises the mainland and nine offshore islands, including the inhabited island of Failaka, the large low-lying muddy island of Bubiyan near the mouth of the Shatt Al-Arab, and seven small coral islands mostly in the south. The principal topographic features are Wadi Al-Batin, which runs along the western border with Iraq. Until the discovery of oil in the Burgan area in 1938, Kuwait's economy was based on pearl diving, seafaring, boat-building, fishing and nomadic pastoralism.
The only natural wetlands in Kuwait are marine and coastal. There are no natural lakes of any kind and no permanent water courses. The only significant freshwater wetland is a complex of shallow pools and marshes fed by sewage and other waste water in an area of sabkha near the town of Al-Jahra at the west end of Kuwait Bay.
The largest of Kuwait's nine offshore islands, Bubiyan, is an uninhabited, low-lying, muddy island near the border with Iraq. The other islands are low sandy islands fringed by coral reefs; all except the large island of Failaka near Kuwait City are uninhabited except for police outposts.
A recent inventory of Important Bird Areas in the Middle East, sponsored by BirdLife International, identified eight sites as being of special importance for bird conservation in Kuwait (Evans, 1994). Five of these sites are primarily wetlands, and include a freshwater wetland, three areas of coastal flats and a small offshore island. All are included in the present inventory, along with an additional coastal site (Al-Khiran) in the extreme south of the country.
Al-Jahra Pool Nature Reserve: A man-made wetland comprising sewage lagoons and reed-beds in an area of sabkha at the extreme western end of Kuwait Bay. As a permanently wet and green area, the wetland attracts a very wide variety of migrant birds during the migration seasons and in winter, and provides an important refuge from hunting. At least 220 species of birds have been recorded at the site. Several thousand waterfowl occur during the migration seasons, but accurate counts have not been made. At least 66 species of birds have been recorded in the area.
Sulaibikhat Bay is an important staging and wintering area for migratory waterfowl. The sabkha area in the Nature Reserve provides a secure roosting site for thousands of shorebirds and other waterfowl which feed on the adjacent mudflats at low tide.
Kubbar Island is another important breeding site for terns.