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Republic of Kazakhstan

Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo ©Machiel Valkenburg Website

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.

Top Sites

Chopak Ornithological Station


Satellite View

Institute of zoology - Visitors to Chopak Ornithological Station gavr@zool2.academ.alma-ata.su 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.


Tatyana Bragina



E.I. Gavrilov

Top Site Information



Number of Species

Number of bird species: 376


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

* Field Guides & Bird Song

For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder

Bird Biology in Kazakhstan

Edited by EI Gavrilov 169 pages Pensoft 1978 ISBN: 100123 Out of Print

Birds of Central Asia

Birds of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan
By Raffael Ayé, Manuel Schweizer & Tobias Roth with contributions from Arend Wassink, illustrated by Dave Nurney , Per Alström, Adam Bowley, Carl D'Silva, Kim Franklin, John Gale, Alan Harris, Ren Hathway, Christopher Schmidt, Brian Small, Jan Wilczur, Tim Worfolk & MartWoodcock | Christopher Helm | Paperback | Oct 2012 | 336 pages | 141 plates with colour illustrations | 14 colour photos | 5 black & white illustrations | 3 colour maps | colour distribution maps
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780713670387

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Fauna and Distribution of Birds of Kazakhstan

Edward Gavrilov 198 pages Institute of Zoology 1999 ISBN: 152288 Out of Print

Guide to Birds of the Kazakhstan Republic

Edward Gavrilov 178 pages, tabs. Institute of Zoology 2000 ISBN: 9965010501

The Birds of Kazakhstan

Arend Wassink and Gerald, J Oreel 2007

ISBN: 9081146211

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Abbreviations Key

Naurzum State Nature Reserve


Satellite View

Naurzum State Nature Reserve (Zapovednik Naurzum) 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...

Forums & Mailing Lists

Birds in Russia

Mailing List

To post to list: BirdsinRussia@yahoogroups.com

List contact: BirdsinRussia-owner@yahoogroups.com

To subscribe to list: BirdsinRussia-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Information and discussion list on all aspects of biology, ecology, behaviour, number, distribution, migrations and conservation etc. of all bird species of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (within the borders of the ex-USSR). Founder Jevgeni Shergalin.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Tour Operator

Every traveller dreams to see as much as possible. It's very important in our rush time. Kazakhstan is the country of vast spaces. Travelling by train you can observe similar landscapes day and night – feather-grass steppes, saline and sandy deserts. But South Kazakhstan is the exception to the rule. It's such a part of Asia where you can see a lot in a short term. Every day you can enojy different landscapes, make the acquaintance with dozens of new plants and animals…

Birding Pal

Tour Operator

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Kazakhstan Birdtours

Tour Operator

If you want to see such hard-to-find species as Ibisbill, Relict Gull, Himalayan Snowcock, Eversmann's Dove, Black Lark, White-winged Lark and Himalayan Rubythroat, along with hordes of Rosy Starlings and many other mountain and steppe specialities, set in a scene of mountains, wild flowers and clean air, then Kazakhstan Birdtours is the company for you…

Rubythroat Birding Tours

Tour Operator

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!

Trip Reports

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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.

2013 [05 May] - Arend Wassink

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…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] - Dion Hobcroft - Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan

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..We birded in howling gales, powerful sunshine, idyllic conditions, and occasional showers. Amongst the more than 200 bird species recorded was a roll call of special birds: White-headed Duck; Himalayan Snowcock; Dalmatian Pelican; Little Bittern; Cinereous Vulture; Macqueen’s Bustard; Demoiselle Crane; Sociable Lapwing; Greater Sand-Plover; Ibisbill; Black-winged Pratincole; Pallas’s and Black-bellied sandgrouse; White-winged Woodpecker; Lesser Kestrel; Red-footed and Saker falcons; Bearded Reedling; Black and White-winged larks; White-tailed Rubythroat; Eversmann’s, Blue-capped, and White-winged redstarts; Azure and Turkestan tits; Black-headed and White-crowned penduline-tits; Black-throated and Brown accentors; Gray-necked Bunting; Crimson-winged and Mongolian finches; Red-mantled Rosefinch; Fire-fronted Serin; and Saxaul Sparrow to mention some…

2013 [06 June] - Hervé Jacob

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…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

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…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

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…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

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…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 [06 June] - Dion Hobcroft - Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan

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VENT’s fourth comprehensive tour of Central Asia was our most successful yet, sighting 265 species of birds, 16 mammals, and a variety of interesting reptiles. Many of the birds were in dazzling breeding plumage and full song. Native plants were flowering extensively.

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

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Itinerary & annotated checklist

2016 [05 May] - Machiel Valkenburg

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...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

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...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 [06 June] - Christian Dortu - South East Kazakhstan & Tengiz-Korgalzhyn natural reserve

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...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...


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…

Other Links

Birds of Kazakhstan


At least 503 species (of which 386 regularly breed) have been recorded in Kazakhstan. A number of species and subspecies have been omitted (see underneath), mainly because the supporting records are, to my opinion, insufficiently documented…

Birds of Prey of Kazakhstan


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