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Republic of Azerbaijan

Rock Nuthatch
Western Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer ©Steve Arlow Website

Birding Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a wonderful place for birdwatching. Tucked in its relatively small space are environments ranging from alpine to subtropical, and this makes a home for a wide range of life, including birds. Some 365 species of birds have been recorded in Azerbaijan. These range from the large and spectacular - such as flamingos and eagles - to many kinds of waterfowl, colourful bee-eaters, rollers and Hoopoe, and numerous small brown warblers that strain even the expert's identification skills.

The avian show keeps changing through the year. Because of Azerbaijan's relatively mild winters, many birds from farther north winter here. Water birds by the thousands concentrate in the many wetlands, large and small, coastal and inland. Among these birds are swans, geese, ducks, flamingos, and waders like Black-tailed Godwit, curlew, and snipe. Along the coast, Common and Great Black-headed Gulls appear. Over the land, Hen Harriers and a few Peregrines and Saker Falcons hunt; the latter two, unfortunately and illegally, are captured for lucrative sale to Arab falconers. Some species of small birds that nest farther north also come here for the winter. Big flocks of Meadow Pipits and Bramblings, for instance, roam the open areas, feeding on seeds. In the mountains, most birds of the alpine zone, like Guldenstadt's Redstart and the Great Rosefinch, are forced lower in winter by snow, some down to the river valleys. The kinds of birds you can see in winter - the Peregrine for instance - may be composed of some individuals from farther north and some that are here all year. Global warming may be increasing the number of species that habitually winter in Azerbaijan.

Spring reduces the great wetland show but brings in a different storm of migrants and nesters. Most of the waterfowl and shorebirds depart for northerly climes, beginning in late February. Early arrivals from the south include Hoopoe, Barn Swallow and wheatear, all easily seen along roadsides. Overhead, you might hear the hoarse croaking of Common Cranes or glimpse a Steppe Eagle, both on their way to Russia or Kazakhstan. Spring migration peaks in April and May. All sorts of small birds, such as shrikes, warblers, and flycatchers, pass through or stay to nest. Look for bee-eaters and electric blue rollers on telephone wires. Along the coast, cormorants, terns, and waders stream by. All this passing and arrival of new life is what makes spring the most exciting time of the year for most birdwatchers.

Summer, of course, is the time of reproduction for most birds. In the marshes, herons, Pigmy Cormorants, and the remaining ducks are conspicuous, while Purple Gallinule, Moorhens, and Water Rails skulk in the reeds. The forest birds, such as tits and woodpeckers, in the mountain forests and remnant lowland patches, break away from the winter flocks to set up paired housekeeping. Alpine birds move upslope to the meadows below snowline. Larks and wheatears sing above their open country territories. Some of the days may be too hot for us sensitive humans, but there is much to see out there in the mountains and plains. Try early morning for coolness and the most bird activity.

Bird migrations in autumn are not as urgent and concentrated as they are in spring. There is no reproductive command pushing them, just the need to get where they`ll find their kind of food in winter. It all begins with certain shorebirds in late summer, picks up with small land birds in September, continues strongly with a variety of land and water birds in October, and ends with the great influx of waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) from October to December. Throughout the fall, raptors such as eagles and hawks pass through, especially along the coast. Water birds, too, have preferred flyways. The majority follow the coast, some cutting across the Apsheron Peninsula and some going around it. While many of those not stopping in Azerbaijan continue toward Iran along the coast, others turn westward up the Kura River lowlands toward interior wetlands. A few go on to the Black Sea.

Where to Go

Below are five of my favourite birdwatching places. Four of these areas are nature reserves. To enter these you need written permission from the State Ecological Committee, which manages them. However, if you don't have permission, nearby areas often have many of the same birds. Many of the wetlands are hunted, but this poses no danger to birdwatchers.

Extract from Azerbaijan International [2001] By Nepýer Shelton

Top Sites

Babadagh

Satellite View

This mountain, which rises to 3,629 meters, is sacred to many Azeris, who make pilgrimages to it. I include it here as an excellent place to see alpine birds and enjoy the craggy scenery. Late May through July is the season. The birds, most of which are infrequently seen at lower elevations, include the Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Grouse, Great Rosefinch, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, Snowfinch, and many others. It is 1½ days from Baku. The usual route is from the Guba side of the mountains, starting the trek from the village of Garkhun or higher, depending on what your four-wheel-drive can negotiate.

Cape Gilazi Dili

Satellite View

I like this place for its sense of remoteness as well as its birds. It offers wet fields, rocky and sandy shore, and a marsh-fringed lagoon that is often full of birds. In the wet fields north of the road that leads to Yeni Yashma, ducks and geese congregate in the cooler months, along with lapwings and other shorebirds. There is usually a Marsh Harrier or two cruising about, and once I saw a magnificent Imperial Eagle. Shorebirds like Grey Plovers and Dunlins can be seen along the sea fringe. At the end of this track you'll find a shack on stilts and the lagoon mentioned above. Dalmatian Pelican, Short-eared Owl, Common Cranes, and White Stork, along with five kinds of herons can be seen in early October at Cape Gilazi.

Haciqabul Golu - Hajigabul

Satellite View

One of the virtues of this lake, just south of Gazimammad, is that much of it has no fringing reeds you have an unobstructed view of the thousands of ducks that winter here. They usually congregate off the north shore or out in the middle. With a telescope you can get a wonderful view of ten or more kinds of ducks - Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, White-headed Ducks, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, and others. Late summer through spring, you should also see herons and a variety of waders. On one January visit, I saw seven flamingos and a flock of 300 avocets. The ponds along the highway on the west side of the lake can be very good for shorebirds too. To reach the lake, about 1½ hours from Baku, take the southerly bypass around Gazimammad.

Lankaran to Lerik

Satellite View

This road, running from the coastal lowland to a view of Talish Mountain peaks, follows a stream valley with the lushest, most beautiful forest I've seen in Azerbaijan. I include this area here because of the scenery and the potential for birds – I have not yet studied it carefully. The forest should have the usual complement of permanent residents such as tits, woodpeckers, and treecreepers, and summer birds such as Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers. Along the stream hunt for Dippers. Past Lerik look for Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), Radde's Accentor, Alpine Swift, Snowfinch, Alpine Chough, and other birds of the high mountains. Check the routes beyond Lerik and see if permission and/or a military guide is needed to enter this area near the Iranian border. The border guards may be suspicious of someone using binoculars.

Red (Bloody) Lake [Qanlı göl]

Satellite View

This freshwater lake is the best birdwatching area near Baku. Red Lake is full of birds, especially in winter. Up the valley from it, extensive marshes hide lots of other birds. What you can see, of course, changes with the seasons. Early summer is the low season, with a few ducks and herons hanging around and warblers and other small birds creeping about in the reeds. If you can get there just after sunrise, you may see Purple Swamphens catching the sun's warmth at the edge of the marsh below Wolfgate. In late summer, migrating waders begin arriving, to feed on invertebrates in the mudflats. During the main Autumn migration you can see a great variety of water birds: ducks, waders, herons, gulls, terns, & maybe a flamingo or two. As winter comes on, many of these disappear, but the duck and coot populations build up to hundreds. Often these Shovelers, Mallards, the rare White-headed Duck, and others are easily watched from the highway on the south side. Other days you need to don rubber boots and trek the muddy west shore. Almost always, you'll see Marsh Harriers coursing over the reeds, looking for prey.

Contributor

Napier Shelton

Michigan, USA

sheltonew@state.gov

Dr. Elchin Sultanov

Chairman of Azerbaijan Ornithological Society

sultanov@azdata.net

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 371

As at July 2018

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

Birdwatching in Azerbaijan

(A Guide to Nature and Landscape) | by Sebastian Schmidt, Kai Gauger & Nigar Agayeva | Michael Succowe Foundation | 2008 | Paperback | 224 pages, colour photos, maps, includes audio CD |

ISBN: 9783000241581

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of Azerbaijan

By M Patrikeev | Pensoft Publishers | 2004 | Hardback | 380 pages, 70 colour & b/w photos, 250 distribution maps, tables |

ISBN: 954642207X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in Azerbaijan

by Napier Shelton | Napier Shelton | 2001 | Paperback | 112 pages, Col photos, illustrations |

ISBN: 0976012006

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Azerbaijan Ornithological Society (AOS)

Address: M. Mushbig Street 4B, Ap. 60, Baku, AZ, AZ1021 Tel/Fax: Tel. 00994 12 480 0495; Fax 00994 12 579 1651

Ecological club of Azerbaijan

Ecological club of Azerbaijan (Eco Club of Azerbaijan) offers all kinds of active recreation in Azerbaijan and other countries. Our club was established by a group of young sportsmen-tourists and joins people who love nature, popularise and develop tourism close to nature…

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

NP Absheron

Information

Satellite View

The Absheron State Nature Preserve was created in July 1969 in order to protect gazelles, Caspian seals and water birds that inhabit the territory. The climate of the area is semi-arid, specific to semi-desert and dry steppe.

NP Absheron

Information

Satellite View

The Absheron State Nature Preserve was created in July 1969 in order to protect gazelles, Caspian seals and water birds that inhabit the territory. The climate of the area is semi-arid, specific to semi-desert and dry steppe.

NP Absheron

Information

Satellite View

The Absheron State Nature Preserve was created in July 1969 in order to protect gazelles, Caspian seals and water birds that inhabit the territory. The climate of the area is semi-arid, specific to semi-desert and dry steppe.

NP Absheron

Information

Satellite View

The Absheron State Nature Preserve was created in July 1969 in order to protect gazelles, Caspian seals and water birds that inhabit the territory. The climate of the area is semi-arid, specific to semi-desert and dry steppe.

NP Ag-Gel

Information

Satellite View

Ag-Gol, situated in the Mil plain of the Kur-Araz lowlands has a semi-desert landscape and is an important overwintering and nesting place for birds. Over 140 species of birds are found in the park, including 89 species of nesting birds (partridge, spoonbill, swan, teal, bustard, etc.). Approximately 30 specimens of charadriiformes and 24 specimens of anseriformers have chosen this reserve home for themselves. A number of threatened bird species are here such as white-tailed eagle, white pelicans and Dalmatian pelicans

NP Göygöl

Information

Satellite View

The national park includes one of the most beautiful and cleanest lakes in Azerbaijan, Lake Göygöl. The reserve is intended to protect the natural ecosystem of the subalpine zones of the northern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus. Birds include bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus), stock dove (Columba oenas), Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), woodlark (Lullula arborea), mute swan (Cygnus olor), common quail (Coturnix coturnix), Caspian titmouse (Poecile hyrcanus) subspecies of the titmouse; the Caucasus pheasant (Phasianus colchicus colchicus) subspecies of the common pheasant are common.

NP Hirkan

Information

Satellite View

The Hirkan National Park protects the humid subtropical and humid temperate forests in the area of the Lenkoran Lowland and the Talysh Mountains, sheltering many endemic plant and animal species. Birds include Caspian Tit and Caucasus Pheasant. Large mammals includee Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), lynx (Lynx lynx), brown bear (Ursus arctos), wild boar (Sus scrofa), wolf (Canis lupus), golden jackal (Canis aureus), jungle cat (Felis chaus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), badger (Meles meles), otter (Lutra lutra).

NP Shirvan

Information

Satellite View

he reserve‘s activity is focused on the protection and reproduction of the Goitered Gazelle (Gazella sulgutturosa), waterfowl birds and typical plant biotypes of the Shirvan Lowland. The area is 25800 hectares, of which 3500 hectares are water reservoirs. There are bustards, Francolins, little bustard (Otis tetrax), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis), saker falcon (Falco cherrug) etc.. In winter, there are many migratory birds on the water bodies such as grey geese.

NP Zangezur

Information

Satellite View

Zangezur National Park is situated in the exclave of Nakhchivan. In addition to mammals, 217 bird species and subspecies such as Levant sparrowhawk, great white pelican, Dalmatian pelican, white-tailed eagle, lammergeyer, short-toed eagle, great bustard and little bustard can be found in the region.

SR Ghizil-Agaj

Information

Satellite View

Qizil-Aghaj State Reserve or Qızılağac State Reserve was created for the purpose of protecting, creating conditions for wintering and nesting of migrant, swamp and wild birds. 248 species of birds, wild boar, wolf, wild cat, badger, sable, fox, etc. populate this reserve.

SR Ismailli

Information

Satellite View

Ismailli State Reserve or Ismayilly State Reserve was established for preservation and protection of natural complexes, occupying the north part of southern slope of Major Caucasus. Forests are mainly formed by such tree types as beeches, hornbeams and oaks, with small numbers of birch-trees, cud, lime-trees, etc. Among them are chestnut-leaved oak and horehound oak that are included in the Red Book of Azerbaijan. The reserve accounts for nearly 170 animal species. 104 bird species of 13 orders are found in this reserve. Such mammals as brown bear, wild cat, lynx, Caucasian dear, roe dear, chamois, Caucasian goat, etc. populate the reserve.

SR Turian-Chay

Information

Satellite View

The reserve is situated on the spurs of the Buz-Dag Ridge, in the southern foothills of the Major Caucasus, on the right bank of the River Turian-Chay in the Agdash area.

SR Zagatala

Information

Satellite View

The reserve's fauna includes the Syrian brown bear, Indian wolf, forest cat and Caucasian lynx.. It also has a diverse range of birds, including the golden eagle (Aquilla chrysaetos), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), but especially bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and monk vulture (Aegypius monachus).

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Caucasus

Tour Operator

The notorious Caucasus, including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Iran, Turkey and Russia, is a home for anticipating wildlife with enormous number of endemism, which makes it one of the world’s richest and important biodiversity hotspots.

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

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.

2009 [06 June] - Pavel Simeonov

Report

This was an exploratory trip organised by Branta-Tours Birdwatching Company and with the main goal of accessing the feasibility of running guide ornithological trips to the country. Our aim was to visit several of the reserves and national parks as well as looking for any other good looking areas of habitat and getting a feel for the species on offer as well as their ease of accessibility…

2010 [06 June]- Benoît Paepegaey - Nakhchivan and Greater Caucasus

Report

At the south-eastern corner of Western Palaearctic, on the shore of the Caspian Sea and the slopes of the Caucasus lies a country still widely unknown to west European birdwatchers. Known to most of us for its oil fields, Azerbaijan has not so far managed to make it to the favourite destinations list of even the most adventurous west Palaearctic birders, as opposed to Eastern Turkey, Georgia and Armenia…

2011 [06 June] - Eric Burnier

Report

A group of 11 Swiss naturalists guided by Pavel Simeonov (Branta-Tours) had the chance to pay a 10 days visit to the eastern part of Azerbaijan, from the Russian border to the Iranian border, from May 27th till June 6th 2011…

2012 [05 May] - Michael Heiß

Report

…Calandra Larks and Isabelline Weathears are singing in the steppes, whereas Nightingales, Cuckoos and Turtle Doves are singing in the bushes….

2012 [06 June] - Kai Gauger - Nakhchivan

Report

…The Zuvand region was a bit disappointing for us after Mario had two Radde's Accentors and four Crimson-winged Finches a few days before. We didn't see those and also no sign of Irania. So the only special bird was Bimaculated Lark…

2016 [05 May] - Tomas Axén Haraldsson

PDF Report

Welcome to the English summary of the fifth Swedish - run group trip to Azerbaijan. This program aimed at seeing the target species of the Greater Caucasus, the Shikras in the deep south and the very seldom visited Autonomus Republic of Nakhchivan.

2017 [04 April] - Tomas Axén Haraldsson - Besh Barmag

PDF Report

Since its “discovery” in 2007 the spectacular bird migration bottle neck at Besh Barmag has received growing and much warranted attention. Following the youth trip in October 2015 and the successful Bird Camp in September 2 016 we soon decided on a spring time Bird Camp for 2017 and below is the result of 30 young naturalists birding and camping at Besh Barmag during a weekend in late April 2017.

2017 [06 June] - Ben Macdonald - Including Nakhchivan

PDF Report

Not only geographically but politically and ecologically, Azerbaijan feels like a frontier country at the very edge of Europe. Still well outside of the traditional, ‘safe’ set of birding trips for the Western Palearctic, it offers superb landscapes and incredible birding, the stra nge prospect of still wandering in deciduous forests alongside the watchful eyes of leopards, bears and wolves, and the less welcome ‘frontier’ issues of dangerous dogs, corrupt police, poor infrastructure and some truly dangerous road s. All in all, Azerb aijan is the full whack - in every way.

2017 [09 September] - Tomas Axén Haraldsson - Besh Barmag

PDF Report

F ollowing the last years of ornithological exploration in Azerbaijan and dominated by the sensational , however sporadic c overage of the migration bottle neck site of Besh Barmag, the idea for this arrangement grew forth.

2018 [05 May] - Kai Gauger

Report

From May 20th to 28th Kai Gauger led a trip along the birding hotspots in eastern Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan. The guests were from Germany, Austria, Denmark and Great Britain and the ground logistics were (as always) perfectly arranged by Hajibaba Imanli from olivetravel.co

Blogs

Birding Azerbaijan

BLOG

Birdwatching news and bird photography from Transcaucasia - by Kai Gauger and Michael Heiß…

Other Links

Bird Watching in Azerbaijan

Webpage

Where to Go ­ What You'll See - Azerbaijan is a marvelous place for bird watching. Tucked into this relatively small country the size of Austria (or the state of Maine) are environments ranging from alpine to subtropical, all of which are home for a wide range of life, including birds.

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