Central Russia

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola ©Pavlo Zaltowski
Birding Central Russia

By Central Russia we mean the heartland around Moscow consisting of 18 federal areas; the ‘Oblasts’ of Bryansk, Belgorod, Vladmir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kaluga, Kostroma, Kursk, Lipetsk, Moscow, Novogorod, Orel, Ryazan, Smolensk, Tambov, Tver, Tula, Yaroslavyl and the City of Moscow (The city of Moscow is not Oblast, but unlike capital cities of other oblasts it is absolutely independent from the Oblast government).

The total area of this part of Russia is 650,700 square kilometers; the population is 36,951,800 people, of whom 29,100,900 live in cities. Over 40 % of the population lives in the City of Moscow and the Moscow region (oblast). This is the most developed area of Russia. Occupying only 3.8% of Russia it is home for 25.4% of population of the country. It is on the leading edge in both social and economical development among remaining 6 Federal Districts of Russia.

This Federal District has a moderate continental climate and covers several natural zones from North to South – coniferous woods, dense woods, forest-steppe and steppe. Areas covered with woods ranges from 60% in the North to 5% in the South. The main terrain type is plain with hills of various sizes and heights. However, there are swamps in the north and da eveloped network of rivers, lakes and ponds make it rather diverse in habitat and appearance.

The variety of birds in the region largely overlaps with the general avifauna of Europe, but it is more diverse than individual European countries. Birding is not developed in this region, in line with Russia in general, either as an individual hobby or as an industry. That is why, for travelling birders it is advisable to find a local person who may assist you in finding your way around, and getting to the birds.

There are numerous good birding spots around the City of Moscow and in the whole district. Most of them are territories of national parks or nature reserves. However, because of long distances, it is difficult to see a lot in a short period of time. The best season for birding is Spring-Summer (from early May to mid June), further on, in the summer nesting period birding is less rewarding, but it takes off again in the period of autumn migration (September-October) which creates a fascinating opportunity to observe considerable number of bird species in one day.

Birding Smolensk If you need to visit Smolensk on business there are several interesting areas to bird.Smolensk Lake (about a mile to the south of the city is a large lake approx 1Km x 2Km. There is a large power station situated on the northern shore. To the south of the lake is a large reed bed, and an adjacent, smaller, more vegitated lake).Lakes near Przhevalskoye About 50 miles north of Smolensk there are some lakes which are a popular day trip destination for the residents of Smolensk. There is a bus service, and it is possible to stay at several homes by the small town of Przhevalskoye (named after the famous Russian naturalist explorer. The small museum dedicated to him is well worth a visit ).The tiny village of Veyeno, which is about 30 Km east of Smolensk just south of the main Smolensk – Moscow motorway.Highlights include: Bittern, White Stork, olden Eagle, Lesser=spotted Eagle, Montague’s Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Goshawk, Hazel Grouse, Quail, Whiskered Tern, Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Citrine Wagtail, Penduline Tit, Nutcracker, Golden Oriole, Common Rosefinch, Savi’s Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icternine & Booted Warbler etc.

Top Sites
  • Bryansky Les Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    This site has exceptional broad-leaved forests. You will meet old large oak and lime-trees in a floodplain of woodlands. Here are one of the biggest breeding groups of Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, and also White and Black Storks, Cranes and Honey-buzzard. Booted Eagle can also be found in the region. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve. The best time here is May, when spring water has already begun to recede, and river valley forests and meadows become possible to walk in.
  • Ugra National Park

    InformationSatellite View
    The northern part of Ugra National Park consists of a large mixed forest with the big swamps inside it. Breeding colonies of Common Gulls and Common Terns are situated in the wetland. Some other unusual species such as Common Heron, White Stork, Widgeon, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Crane, Common Redshank, Black Tern and White-winged Black Tern, have been recorded where. Another interesting spot is Zalidovskie meadows, which lie along the right bank of Ugra-river. This floodplain of wetlands are bird rich with a nice collection of waterfowl and waterside birds. These include Black-throated Diver, Bittern, Little Bittern, Common Heron, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Golden-eye, Hen-harrier, Marsh Harrier, Common Partridge, Moorhen and Golden Plover.
  • Zhuravlinaya Roina Reserve

    This reserve is the only place in European Russia where thousands of Cranes concentrate for the Autumn migration. It is a really convenient site to observe them foraging and resting up, especially in August. Moreover, not far from here is situated another interesting plot
  • Andrey Nedossekin

    Moscow | checkler@yandex.ru

  • Olga Batova

    Ornithologist - Ecological Travel Center - Moscow | info@ecotravel.ru

  • Pavlo Zaltowski

    | zaltowski68@aol.co.uk

Useful Reading

  • Atlas - Birds of Moscow City and the Moscow Region

    by Kalyakin MV & OV Voltzit | Pensoft Publishers | 2006 | Hardback | 372 pages, More than 900 colour photos, distribution maps, illustrations | ISBN: 9789546422620 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Museums & Universities
  • State Darwin Museum of Natural History - Moscow

    The museum has an extensive bird collection.
  • RBCU - Central Chernozemie Branch

  • RBCU - Moscow Branch

    In Russian only

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Ugra

    InformationSatellite View
    It was established to protect typical landscapes of Central Russia and later designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The headquarters of the national park are located in Kaluga. The total area of the park is 986,245 square kilometres (380,791 sq mi). It consists of seven clusters grouped into three areas.
  • NR Bryansky Les

    InformationSatellite View
    Bryansky Les Reserve is a nature reserve in Bryansk Oblast, Russia along the Nerussa River (a tributary of the Desna River) near the Russian border with Ukraine. The Bryansk forest is the only place in Europe where there are all ten of the European woodpeckers: great spotted woodpecker, middle spotted, lesser spotted woodpecker, Syrian, white-backed, black woodpecker, grey, green, three-toed and Wryneck.
  • NR Zhuravlinaya Rodina

    ImageSatellite View
    The Zhuravlinaya Roina Reserve is best visited in August, when birders will have the opportunity of observing thousands of Cranes foraging and resting in preparation for the autumn migration. Other species likely to be seen are Willow Grouses, Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits, and Capercailyes, as well as passerines such as Nightingales, Warblers and Pipits.
Trip Reports
  • 2006 [06 June] - Paul Mollatt - Suzdal

    Suzdal is located to the north-west of Moscow and makes an excellent side trip from Moscow, both for the family birder and his/her family. It is reachable in about 3 to 4 hours by bus and train from Moscow and is of great historical interest. It is also protected from development, which means that the town and its surroundings offer a lot of good habitat for birds…
Other Links
  • Birds of Obninsk

    Photos, videos, places for bird observation and photography
  • Tits of the Moscow Region

    Full information about tits. We have books, articles, stories, gallery and even a WEBCAM!

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