Republic of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is the eighth largest country in the world, situated in the middle of the Eurasian Continent. It stretches almost 3,000km from the Volga Delta in the west to the west border of Mongolia in the east, and 1,600km from Russia in the north to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan in the south. It occupies a territory of 2,700,000km2. Plains cover 60% of this territory, hummocks 30% and mountains and foothills 10%.
The Western Tien Shan, Northern Tien Shan, Dzungarian region and Altai are the largest mountain regions in Kazakhstan. About 34,500 lakes are scattered over the country and are most abundant in northern regions. Some of these lakes are intermittent. The largest and most famous are the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, and large lakes such as Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz and Kushmurun. The majority of rivers such as Ural, Irgiz, Turgai, Sarysu, Nura, Ili etc. belong to the closed catchment-areas of large lakes. Only the rivers Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol flow to the sea – the Arctic Ocean.
This typical inner-continental country has great diversity of landscapes: different types of steppes and north desert, deciduous and coniferous forests, large lakes, and river valleys, huge mountains with magnificent gorges and white-capped peaks. The northernmost region is represented by the forest-steppe ecosystems of the Western-Siberian Lowland. Further south, these ecosystems change for steppe ones followed by extensive desert covering over 44% of the total area of the country. The mountains belts include different types of forests, alpine meadows, tundra, permanent snow belts and glaciers.
This geographical location and diversity provide a rich composition of flora and fauna with over 6,000 species of vascular plants and 835 vertebrate species. There are 489 bird species, including 396 breeding species, the rest are migrating or wintering species. Some of them are familiar species, but also one may encounter many wonderful and rare birds such as: Greater Flamingo, Red-breasted Goose, White-headed Duck, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Imperial Eagle, Saker, Black Grouse, Siberian White Crane, Great, Houbara & Little Bustards, Sociable Lapwing, Pallas’s, Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, White-winged & Black Larks and many others. Among the c.178 species of mammals there are also very interesting species: Snow Leopard, Persian Gazelle, Saiga, Asian Wild Ass, Bukhara Red Deer, Argali and Ibex.
North-west Kazakhstan - Kostanay Oblast
Many regions of Kazakhstan are very interesting for birdwatchers. Kostanay oblast on the north-west of country is one of them. This region with steppe, lakes and forest patches, including Naurzum State Nature Reserve [Map], have very diverse bird fauna, especially during migration time, and some special species that possible encounter only here, of which Black Lark and White-winged Lark are endemic of steppe of Central Asia.
Naurzum Reserve situated in the south dry steppe of Kustanai Oblast, but this region, together with typical landscapes, also has contrasting landscapes that attracted an extraordinary wealth of animals and world of vegetation. Steppe, lakes, meadows and forests create an interesting combination of habitats. Typical, short feather grass steppe and other variants occupy majority of this territory.
In the spring, a variety of flowers cover the steppe; afemerals and flowering adonises, Pulsatilla flavesceus, different tulips and irises. In June, the flowering feather grass transforms the steppe into a shimmering silver sea. Three forested areas situate in different soil condition lead to them composition and structure. Severe conditions of growth limits the composition of tree species by pine, aspen and different species of birch. The pines are dispersed on multiple large and small sand hills, where they grow as small pine islands surrounded by steppe vegetation.
Numerous large and small, fresh and salt lakes, situated here, are intermittent. The species of different landscapes zones are found in the fauna of this area. The largest animal in the reserve is the Moose. Before 1990, in the summer, grazing herds of Saiga Saiga tatarica could be seen in steppe areas and would seek shelter among the Naurzum pines. Altogether the fauna is composed of 337 species: 44 mammals, 278 birds, 3 reptiles, 3 amphibians and 9 fish.
This area is the best place for observation of the Birds of Prey. Overall 25 raptor species, including 16 breeding, occur here. In the forests of reserve breed 53 pairs of Golden, Imperial & White-tailed Eagles and many other birds of prey species like Saker, Red-footed Falcon, Kestrel, Hobby, Merlin etc. In a steppe area breed Steppe Eagle and Pallid & Montagu's Harriers, on lakes - Marsh Harrier. Black Grouse, Golden Oriole, Oriental Turtle Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Azure Tit, Swift, Redstart, Eagle and Scops Owls are some species from typical for forests. The Central Asian endemic species White-winged & Black Larks are abundance in some steppe place, also Sociable Lapwing, becoming rarer recently, occur here and Little Bustard & Demoiselle Crane. There are some passerine - Wheatear & Isabelline Wheatear, in bushes - Barred & Booted Warbler, Red-backed & Lesser Grey Shrike (very rarely Isabelline Shrike); Bluethroat and others. Some species like Roller, Hoopoe, Rose-coloured Starling may be encountered in different habitats.
Bird fauna of the lakes is the richest and most diverse with a lot of waterfowl, shorebirds and passerines. There are many interesting species: Dalmatian & White Pelicans White-headed & Ferruginous Ducks, Great Black-headed, Yellow-legged & Little Gulls, Gull-billed, Caspian, Black & White-winged Terns, as well as of more or less common waders and ducks and some passerine species - Paddy-field, Reed, Great Reed, Cetti’s, Savi’s Warblers, Reed & Red-headed Bunting, Bearded Tit and Stonechat occupying reeds and bushes around the lakes.
The lake is also famous for being a very important roosting lake of migratory birds, especially in the autumn. Hundred thousand birds: geese (Greylag, White-fronted, Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted); swans (Whooper, Mute and Tundra); different ducks and waders species found a rest and shelter here. Such rare species as Siberian White Crane also make regular stops. The biggest night roost has been counted at 160,000 geese in one lake in October 1998. The best time of the year for bird watching is May and June, for observation of arctic geese and other migratory birds - the end of September and beginning of October.
South Kazakhstan - Almaty Oblast
This region is very interesting, because it includes North Tien Shan Mountain with gorges, lakes, broad-leaf and spruce forest, the canyons of Charyn River, sandy and clay desert and wetlands - large and small lakes in the desert. The centre of the region Almaty is the largest and one of the most beautiful cities of Kazakhstan. It was first capital of the country. The bird fauna of North Tien Shan Mountain is very diverse, including nearly 200 species. These include: Lammergeier, Himalayan Vulture, Golden Eagle, Ibisbill, Himalayan Snow Cock and especially passerine - Blue Whistling Thrush, Blue-headed, and Eversmann's Redstarts, Severtsov's Tit Warbler, White-throated & Brown Dippers, Brown & Black-throated Accentors, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Himalayan Rubythroat, Red-fronted Serin, White-winged Grosbeak, Hodgson's Rosy Finch, Alpine & Himalayan Accentors, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Brandt's Rosy Finch, Red-breasted Rosefinch.
The Canyon of Charyn River is a truly spectacular place. With surrounding area there are very specific bird fauna, which include some raptor species: Golden Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Lesser Kestrel and other birds such as Black Stork, Chukar, Short-toed, Bimaculated & Horned Larks, Isabelline & Pied Wheatears, Rock & Blue-rock Thrushes, White-capped, Grey-necked, Rock & Red-headed Buntings, Hoopoe, Roller, Rock Sparrow, Rose-coloured Starling, Mongolian Trumpeter Finch and Lesser Grey Shrike.
The typical Northern type desert represented by Saryesik-Atyrau desert and Taukum desert. Saryesik-Atyrau is mainly sandy, where in some places have preserved Saxaul forest. In Taukum desert clay valleys and sand hills combine. There are some specific species like Black-bellied, Pintail & Pallas's Sandgrouse Lesser Short-toed Lark, Desert Wheatear, Great Grey Shrike Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Brown-necked Raven, Turkestan Tit, Saxaul Sparrow, Rufous Bush Robin, Desert Wheatear, Desert Warbler and very rare species - Short-toed Eagle & Pander's Ground Jay. Bluethroat, Isabelline Shrike, Eversmann's Dove and White-winged Woodpecker might be encountered in Turanga tree groves near Ili river.
The lakes of this region attract very many Water birds. There are Dalmatian and White Pelicans, different species of ducks, including White-headed & Ferruginous, Great Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed & Caspian Tern, waders with some interesting species like Caspian & Greater Sand Plovers, Collared Pratincole and some species of Warbler.
Chopak Ornithological Station
Institute of zoology - Visitors to Chopak Ornithological Station email@example.com Contact E.I. Gavrilov in Almaty.
Chokpak ornithological station is a unique ornithological station in Kazakstan - the Asian part of former USSR which has been in existence since 1966. It is located in the foothills of Western Tian-Shan on the Chokpak Pass (1200 M above sea level) between Dzabaglytau and Boroldai Ridges being of part of Talassky Alatau. The work of the station is the study of bird migration. Catching and ringing birds is carried out daily, as well as visual accounts of migrants. This is by the use of large traps (height -12 M, width - 40 M, length - 65-70 M) of the Heligoland type. The maximum number of birds caught for one day has reached 14000 specimens. More than 2 million birds of more than 150 different species have been ringed since the station opened in 1966.
Species include: Bee-eater, Nightjar, Red-headed Bunting, Rufous Turtle Dove, Roller, Spanish and Indian sparrows, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and Sand Martin, Hobby, Rose-coloured Starling, Golden Oriole, and several different Wagtails all regularly caught in the spring. You can observe the migration of numerous birds of prey in the autumn. Some of them are caught with traps, for example: Shikra, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard (subspecies japonicus); Long-legged Buzzard, & Honey Buzzard. When there is a halt in the trapping of birds, one can do fascinating excursions to small reservoirs: Ters-Astchibulak reservoir and Stone lake, where one can see concentrations of Demoiselle Crane and Ruddy Shelduck, Great Black-headed Gull, Red-crested Pochard and other waterfowl. You can visit the breeding places of Lesser Kestrel, Long-legged Buzzard, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Eagle Owl, Black stork, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Pied Wheatear, Bimaculated Lark, Bee-eater and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and colonies of a Rose-coloured Starling in the Karatau mountains.
If you wish, it is possible to visit a reserve in the gorge Berkara with a unique area for of Paradise Flycatcher in spring. One day excursion can be devoted to the Natural Reserve Aksu-Dzabagly. It is located only in 20 km from our camp. Blue Whistling Thrush, Dipper and Brown Dipper, and other birds of the juniper forest can be watched there. In an area located in 1km from the camp, you can see White-winged Woodpecker, Long-eared Owl, Lesser Grey Shrike and Long-Tailed Shrike, various species of Warblers: Chiffchaff, Greenish Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat with subspecies S. c. curruca, S.c.telengetica, S.c. halimodendri, Grey Tit, Yellow-breasted & Azure Tit, etc. The field Camp consists of a large tent - kitchen, field laboratory and 8 sleeping places.
Accommodation is available in the van or tent. The dates for visitors are: 20th April – 30th May, and 1st September – 30th October. Participants arrive at Almaty airport, then take 1-2 days in the city for registration (accommodation in hotel) and transfer to Chokpak station by car (12 hours duration); the distance between Almaty and Chokpak station being 600 km.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 513
(As at December 2018)
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* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder
A Field Guide to the Birds of Kazakhstan
By Vadim Konstantinovich Ryabitsev, AF Kovshar, VA Kovshar & NN Berezovikov | BTS Print | 2014 | Hardback | 511 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | Russian Text |
ISBN: 9786017287153Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Central Asia
(Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan & Afghanistan) | By Raffael Ayé, Manuel Schweizer & Tobias Roth | Christopher Helm | 2012 | Paperback | 336 pages, 141 plates with colour illustrations; 14 colour photos, 5 b/w illustrations, 3 colour maps, colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 9780713670387Buy this book from NHBS.com
Important Bird Areas in Kazakhstan
(Priority Sites for Conservation) | Edited by SL Sklyarenko, GR Welch & M Brombacher | RSPB | 2008 | Paperback | 314 pages, Figs, tabs, maps |
ISBN: 9789965326868Buy this book from NHBS.com
The New Birds of Kazakhstan
By Arend Wassink | Arend Wassink | 2015 | Hardback | 382 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 9789081146203Buy this book from NHBS.com
The park serves to preserve rare and endangered plant and animal species. The flora of the Park includes 1800 plant species, including 69 rare species. Also, 56 animal species within the park are considered rare, including argali, dziggetai, Persian gazelle. Not counting insects and fish, at least 260 different animals live in Altyn Emel. There are endangered amphibians including the Siberian toad and rare and endangered birds including black stork and imperial eagle. Of 78 species of mammals, 11 are recorded in the Red Book of Kazakhstan, including stone marten, polecat, otter, manul (wild cat), wild ass, gazelle, argali, Asian barbastelle bat, Bukhara deer, lynx and Tien Shan brown bear. Kulan, goitered gazelle and Przewalski horses also live in the park
Bayanaul National Park is located in southeastern Pavlodar Province, 140 kilometers from the industrially developed city of Ekibastuz, on the outskirts of the Central Kazakh Uplands. The park was Kazakhstan's first national park. It was created to preserve and restore the natural flora and fauna found in the Bayanaul mountain range. Its total area is 68,453 hectares. Around 50 species of bird and 40 species of mammals inhabit the park including cranes, bustard and a variety of birds of prey.
It is situated in the mountains south of Almaty between Gorge Turgen in the east and Chemolgan River in the west. The National Park borders Almaty Nature Reserve, which is located around Peak Talgar. A total of 300 species of birds and other animals have been recorded in the park. It is home to snow leopards, Central Asian lynx, Tian Shan brown bears, Central Asian stone martens, Siberian ibex, bearded vultures and golden eagles. Other notable bird species include Himalayan snowcock, ibisbill, Eurasian scops owl, and Eurasian three-toed woodpecker
Karkaraly National Park is in the Karaganda Oblast (Karaganda Region) of Kazakhstan. There are 153 species of birds in the park. 11 of these species are in Kazakhstan’s Red Book of Protected Species. They are: golden eagle, imperial eagle, steppe eagle, booted eagle, saker falcon, Eurasian eagle-owl, Dalmatian pelican, black stork, whooper swan, swan goose, Pallas's sandgrouse.
Tarbagatai National Park was established in 2018 to protect a region of mountain-steppe in East Kazakhstan that supports stands of wild fruit trees that have been isolated from genetic encroachment by commercial varieties. The region is one of high biodiversity, with over 1,600 species of vascular plants identified, 270 of birds, 19 of fishes, 23 of reptiles, and 80 species of mammals.
This is the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia. It is located in the southern province of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It covers the north-western mountain chains of the Tian Shan. Its name is derived from the biggest river in the area, the Aksu, and the mountain chain Zhabagly which is located in the northern part of the area. There are 44 mammal species in the Reserve that are enlisted as highly endangered in the red book of Kazakhstan. The most prominent species are the snow leopard which is, however, rarely seen. Somewhat more frequent is the Himalayan brown bear, the Tien Shan argali (Ovis ammon karelini), the Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica), and Menzbier's marmot.
Barsa-Kelmes Nature Reserve is a wildlife refuge on the former island of Barsa-Kelmes in Kyzylorda Region of Kazakhstan, in Central Asia. 203 bird species have been recorded in the area.
NR BR WII Korgalzhyn
Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve is in the Aqmola and Karaganda regions of Kazakhstan, located west of the city of Astana. It is made up of lakes, steppes and semi deserts. The biggest lake is Lake Tengiz. The wetlands are home to pelicans, cranes and the northernmost population of flamingos. Altogether there are more than 300 bird species in the reserve. The steppes of the reserve are home to wolves, saiga antelopes and bobak marmots.
Karatau Nature Reserve is a wildlife refuge in the mid-part of the Karatau Mountains, near Kyzylkum, Betpak-Dala and Moiynkum deserts in the South Kazakhstan Region of Kazakhstan. 118 bird species have been recorded in the area.
Naurzum State Nature Reserve is situated in the Naursumskiy and Semiozernyi districts, 200 km south of Kostanay city. It includes dry steppes with isolated forest patches and lake systems, in the central part of the great Turgay depression. There is a large number of fresh- and brackish-water lakes that resemble flat round kettles with a depth of usually no more than 2.5-3 m; they are dependent completely of spring flood water. The types of steppe here are: feather grass steppe, herb-bunch-grass steppe and different types of salt steppe and meadows. There are 47 species of mammals, 279 species of birds, 10 species of reptile and amphibious animals and 10 species of fish reported in the reserve. In addition more than 1000 species of invertebrates are found.
Guides & Tour Operators
Welcome to Kazakhstan Birdtours the company for exciting and bird-filled tours of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has it all – birds, mammals, insects, flowers, fantastic scenery. Whatever your interest you'll find Kazakhstan an experience never to be forgotten, a place of outstanding natural beauty that never stops producing new surprises and delights.
Rubythroat Birding Tours
Rubythroat Birding Tours offers all-inclusive, high quality bird watching and nature holidays in Central Asia. We organize fixed departure tours as well as private, customized tours for small groups. We can organise all tours of our travel programme for small groups, birdtour companies and even private tours are possible. All tours are lead by local experts and/or European top-ornithologists. Come and join us for an unforgettable experience across the Kazakh mountains, steppe and deserts in search off WP most sough after species!
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2013 [05 May] - Arend Wassink
…Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius At overgrazed steppe near several villages we found at least 6 pairs. Other birds, apparently not breeding, were found on several occasions, including 9 birds on a recently ploughed field between Kembidaik and Sabyndy on 16 May…
2013 [06 June] - Hervé Jacob
…There are many places to bird around, and we spent a lot of time to find the site for the Sociable Lapwing and the reeds, the lack of detailed informations was terrible…
2013 [06 June] - Mark Van Beirs - Kazakhstan, Turkestan & Uzbekistan
…That magnificent Himalayan Snowcock walking amongst patches of snow, those multiple, extremely attractive male White-tailed Rubythroats singing their hearts out from the top of juniper bushes, those five playful, so endearing, young Marbled Polecats exploring the Taukum desert, those immaculate, fluffy Azure Tits foraging only metres away in a seeding willow, that unique Ibisbill feeding in its mountain stream, those superbly elegant Demoiselle Cranes and that rare Sociable Lapwing in the rippling feather steppes and the incredible sight of 60,000 Red-necked Phalaropes in breeding plumage dotted like midges over a huge lake were the unforgettable highlights of our Central Asian adventure…
2013 [06 June] - Svetlana Ashby
…Our first stop was at a petrol station on the outskirts of the city where a Long-tailed Shrike was spotted atop a bush across the road. A swift disembarkation produced good views of the shrike, plus the evocative sounds of singing Common Nightingales and Common Cuckoos, which were to be a common experience over the next week….
2013 [06 June] - Thomas Lameris
…These fields are particularly lark-rich and can be identified by bumpy fields and larger plants. In these abandoned fields we have seen the highest densities of Black Larks. It also is a good field for Twite, Siberian Stonechat and four of our records of Little Bustard were here. There used to be a pipeline from Korgalzhyn to Mayshukur, however, this pipe has been dug out and the dyke of sand was good for Sand Martins, Twite, Bee- eaters and also raptors like Long-legged Buzzard and we saw a Greater Spotted Eagle there…
2014 [08 August] - Jos Stratford
...Explorations into Central Asia, this eleven-day trip to southern Kazakhstan was my first to the region and focussed on the high Tian Shan mountains and the vast expanses of semi-desert that stretch to the north. With species including Pallas's Sandgrouse, Ibisbill, White-tailed Rubythroat and Altai Accentor, this 2014 trip was truly memorable...
2015 [05 May] - John van der Woude
...We did well on nearly all target species, but somehow the waders were in low numbers in the Astana region (which can hold large numbers in this time of year). So we often heard our local guide Aleksej saying "Wo sind die Limikolen?!" (Where are the waders?!).
2015 [09 September] - Nils Bouillard
Itinerary & annotated checklist
2016 [05 May] - Machiel Valkenburg
...It was raining heavily but fortunately stopped when we entered the park. The gorgeous fresh green hills rendered some interesting species like Azure Tit, Common Buzzard and many Hume’s Warblers. In the far distance we heard a White’s Thrush calling and a Blue-whistling Thrush was seen well near the river. In the early evening we reached our pleasant hotel in Almaty where we enjoyed a fine dinner...
2016 [05 May] - Mans Grundsten
...The first Demoiselle Cranes stood at a marsh and now the first Black Larks had appeared! Also many Syke's Wagtails (beema) here, but only CW glimpsed the White-winged Lark which dropped in tallish vegetation not to be found again...
2016 [05 May] - Mike Powell - South-eastern Kazakhstan
Timing is fairly important as most migrants pass through by mid-May but the Cosmos Station in the Tien Shan Mountains can still be blocked by late snow at this time. We decided that whilst seeing migrants would be nice it was the residents and summer breeders that were our goal so we opted for a 10 day trip during the last two weeks of May.
2016 [06 June] - Christian Dortu - South East Kazakhstan & Tengiz-Korgalzhyn natural reserve
...Driving east, we saw our first truly Kazakhstan landscape: a flat valley on each side of the road. Low, arid vegetation up to the foothills. Turning to reach a well by a track, I shouted “sandgrouse”. They revealed to be Pallas’s one. State of emergency: the cameras were “crackling”. After this “adrenalined” moment, we stepped back on the bus to reach the well: Mongolian Finches, Crimson-winged Finches were drinking and a Grey-hooded Bunting was bathing...
2017 (07 July) - Oscar Campbell - Almaty
This report details an 11-day trip undertaken by three UAE-based birders (OC, SL and SJ) teaming up with CB (based in Almaty). Although a little later in the summer than most groups visit, and visiting only a relatively small region (within a few hundred kilometres of Almaty) we found Kazakhstan to be a country of vast, awe-inspiring (and empty) landscapes full of birds, most of which were still singing strongly and with large numbers of fledged juveniles of many species. Although we were too late for any northbound passerine migration, autumn wader migration was just starting. In all, this is proved a superb trip with 193 species confirmed (six heard only) including many mouthwatering highlights in a wonderful range of habitats.
2017 [06 June] - Vaughan Ashby - Northwest Kazakhstan
2018 [05 May] - Reg Thorpe
Another enjoyable tour to the steppes, desert and mountains of SE Kazakhstan which was packed with good birds, spectacular scenery and great experiences. Highlights were many, but included the calling male Little Bustard, very close views of Demoiselle Cranes, the “bus shelter” Saxaul Sparrows, eventually locating the distant displaying Macqueen’s Bustards, the confiding Little Bittern in the open and superb ‘black-mantled Citrine Wagtails at Kolshengol village, the numerous migrants in Buntings in the hills above the Charyn Gorge and the exceptional views of Lesser Kestrel, Rock Sparrow and Isabelline Wheatear at the Aksay Cemetery. Last but not least were the Tien Shan Mountains where the glorious weather and fantastic views of White-tailed Rubythroat, Guldenstadt’s Redstarts and good views of Himalayan Snowcock, Ibisbill and three species of Accentor made for an outstanding day.
Chokpak Ornithological Station
The work of the station is directed towards the study of migrating birds. Catching and ringing (banding) of birds, and visual counts of migrants, are carried out daily during spring and autumn migration periods…
Birds of Kazakhstan
Sightings, photos, news etc