Eastern Siberia

Ross's Gull Rhodostethia rosea ©Ronald Groenink Website
Birding Eastern Siberia

By Eastern Siberia we mean the Republics of Yakutia, [Sakha] Tuva and Khakassia, the ‘Kray’ of Krasnoyarsk and the ‘Oblast’ of Irkutsk.

In contrast to Western Siberia, this region consists mostly of tablelands and mountains. It has continental climate with very cold winters. Eastern Siberia has a lot of big rivers, such as Yenisei, Lena, Yana, Indigirka and others. The largest part of the region is covered in permafrost, which underlies the land. This large territory has a great variety of landscapes. Tundra occupies much of the lands along Northern Seas. It has low vegetation, which mostly consists of mosses, lichens, sedges and gramineous plants. The summer is very short here, and because of this the avifauna is very specialized with a lot of Geese, waders and Gulls breeding here, but only a few passerine bird species, such as Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting, inhabit the tundra. One of the symbolical tundra birds is the beautiful Snowy Owl. To the south begins boundless taiga. The most common tree species are larch and in some places cedar-pine. Dark coniferous forests are less widespread in this region. The typical birds of the taiga forests are Siberian Jay, Golden Mountain Thrush, Rose Finch, Red-flanked Bluetail and Hawk Owl. Large parts of the taiga zone are occupied by fire forests, places that demonstrate different stages of recovery. Such forest attract some special birds, for example, Yellow-Browed Warbler & Black-throated Thrush. One of the richest habitats are the well-developed floodplains of big rivers. Willow and alder forests together with meadows and marshes give rise to a large variety of avifauna with such specialties as Siberian Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin, Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler and many others. In the south is a steppe zone, which consists of different grasslands and lakes. A lot of non-forest birds breed here and water-loving species make stops here during migration.

Top Sites
  • Khakassky State Natural Reserve

    State Natural Reserve “Khakassky! Khakassia is one of those areas where you can see practically all kinds of landscape within the limited territory. To the North there are spurs of Kuznetski Alatau with heights up to 1500 m. Mountain tops eroded by the Khakassian winds are covered by larch and birch forests.. If you drive off about 80-100 km from the capital of Khakassia Abakan you will find yourself in the kingdom of steppes. On the territory as little as 10000 sq. km there are more than 200 lakes of different salinity degree. In the South Khakassia is framed by Sayan Mountains. It’s the land of snowy mountain peaks, impassable taiga and cold clear rivers. The Reserve consists of 9 separate areas which stretched from the North to the South of the Republic. Thereby you can observe great variety of natural complexes, landscapes and incredible diversity of plant and animal life in our region. “Podzaploty” and “Hol-Bogaz” areas belong to “Kuznetski Alatau” mountain range The areas “Lake Shira”, “Lake Bele”, “Lake Itkul” represent steppe landscape. The areas “Little Abakan” and “Lykov’s Zaimka” are part of Sayan mountain realm. However two areas of the Reserve “Khakassky” are very special and are situated one hour drive from Abakan. These are the areas called “Oglahty” and “Kamyziak steppe / lake Ulug-Kol”. The area “Oglahty” is unique in respect that there is no natural source of water on its territory. The only source of water for local floral life is natural precipitation. Nevertheless 1/3 of the area is covered with birch forests and very high grass. In these forests and nearby ravines vegetation grow as high as 1m 20 cm. tall. Total number of plants is more than 400 species concentrated in this area. Complexity of the relief appeared due to the ancient mountain range Oglahty gives us opportunity to observe variety of biocoenosis and plant associations. On the small area you will see a grassland steppe, a stony steppe, a dry meadow and brushwood. Steep slopes in the South and in the East are covered with rock and rock slide vegetation Steppes of Khakassia are not similar to those of European part of Russia. They are also different from Kazakhstan steppe. Khakassian steppes being part of Altay-Sayan mountain country belong to mountainous insular steppes of Siberia. Animal world of the plot “Oglahty” is typically steppe and represents complex of the open area and rock species. There are 5 kinds of reptiles, 148 species of birds, 27 kinds of mammal species inhabit the territory of the plot. “Kamyziak steppe/ lake Ulug-Kol” is even more interesting for research. It is located in the Uibat steppe which is the oldest heart of Khakassia. There are a lot of old historical monuments on the territory of the plot and bordering areas. Most monuments are more than 4000 years old. The lake is located in the lowland lakeside basin and its depth doesn’t exceed 1 m. The lake water is bitter-salty and during certain arid years the lake may dry up completely. The northern and the western shores where three little streamlets disgorge into the lake covers swamps and saline fields. The rest of the shore line is mud littoral shelf. Intense showers during dry summers cause temporary springs of water. Active salt solution causes carst development. Because of hard habitat factors on this plot only 138 species of plants are here. However none of the factors mentioned above reflects the unique nature of the area.. The lake Ulug-Kol falls to the Key Ornithological Areas and it is the water-marshy areas. This is a place of rest for more than 120 species of birds during spring and autumn migrations. Migratory birds have been landing on Ulug-Kol and staying in the area for more than thousand of years already. So that they could have some rest and get stronger for the approaching voyage. Some of them stay here for the summer and bring up their young . The lake is the biggest Avocet habitat in the Middle Siberia. The numbers of avocets has been registered as many as 80-100 couples which is 50% of Avocet population in Middle Siberia. The ruddy shelduck (50-80 pairs), shelduck (20-30), demoiselle crane (5-10 pairs), pochard, pintail, gadwall, curlew and whimbrel and other species also inhabit the lake.
  • Lena River Delta

    Lena River Delta The vegetation of this territory is virtually unique. It includes not only floodplainspecies, but also sea-bank meadows, marshes and different kinds of tundra complexes, such as willow tundra, lichen tundra, grass tundra and many others. Sheltered places are lined with larch elfin woods, and on its northern boundary are larch. The avifauna of the site includes 109 species, among them there are 60 breeding species. The variety of vegetation and large number of different pools attract a lot of waterfowl and waders. You can find here Red-throated & Black-throated Divers, Bewick
  • Putoransky Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The altitudinal vegetation levels show well on the slopes of the Putorany Mountains. There are 4 main levels: forest, crooked forest, tundra and rock. Mountain lakes and rivers complete the landscape. The most common tree species is larch. Crooked forests consist of willow bushes, alder-bushes and Arctic birch. Tundra is a kingdom of lichens and grass. Close to 160 bird species have been recorded in the reserve. Avifauna includes forest, tundra and water species. In the alpine level it’s possible to see Tundra Grouse, Common Dotterel, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting and Wheatear. Such tundra specialities as Golden Plover, American Golden Plover, Red-throated Pipit, Bluethroat and Lapland Bunting also breed here. Willow Grouse, Dusky Thrush, Little Bunting and Polar Bunting inhabit mountain light forests. The most typical birds of coniferous forests are Oriental Cuckoo, Hawk Owl, Mountain Accentor, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Siberian Capercaille and Rose Finch. Near water landscapes the avifauna has about 50 breeding species. Among them you can find White-billed Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Siberian Gray-rumped Sandpiper, Shoveler, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander and Lesser White-fronted Goose.
  • Stolby Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    The avifauna of the south taiga is well represented in this territory. There are two main altitude zones in these mountains. Light coniferous forests consist of larch and pine, covering the land between 200m and 400m above sea level. In the higher zones they are replaced by dark forests with fir, spruce or cedar-pine in prevalence. The trees usually have a complete covering of green mosses. On the south mountainsides there are some small isolated steppes. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve. Siberian Flycatcher Mugimaki Flycatcher, Brown Flycatcher, Pallas’s Warbler, Eye-browed Thrush, Golden Mountain Thrush, Siberian Blue-Robin, Red-flanked Blue-Tail, Eagle Owl, Capercaille, Great Gray Owl and other taiga species inhabit the dark forests. Also you can find here such predatory birds as Peregrine & Little Sparrowhawk. Typical light forest birds are Golden Oriole, Thick-billed Warbler, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Pine Bunting, Oriental Turtle-dove and Nightjar.
  • Tsentralno-Sibirsky Reserve

    This site is situated on the Yenisey River, in the middle taiga faunal sub-zone. It represents typical taiga habitats, such as cedar-pine and larch forests, fire forests and bogs. You can find here a lot of taiga avifauna species. Including Hawk Owl, Eagle Owl, Capercaille, Siberian Jay and Nutcracker. If you are interested in small birds, you can enjoy Brambling, Yellow-browed Bunting, Siberian Flycatcher & Indian Tree Pipit. Moreover, the floodplain of the Yenisey River gives refuge to a lot of birds, including such interesting ones as Pin-tailed Snipe, Siberian Thrush, Ruby-throat, Rufous-tailed Robin, Yellow-breasted Bunting and some Warblers. On the sand banks in August it’s possible to see at water-loving birds, such as Little Gull, Grey Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Ruff, Red-necked Phalarope, different Ducks & Geese.
  • Ulukh-Kol Lake

    This lake is very shallow (predominated about 1 metre deep) as it has no outlets the water is saline. It is surrounded by steppe. The most numerous breeding population of Pied Avocet in Siberia has been recorded here. During spring and autumn migrations mixed flocks of Bewick
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Siberia

    By Vadim Konstantinovich Ryabitsev | Armchair Scientist | 2014 | Hardback | 890 pages, colour & b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps | Russian Text (but has English abstract & names) | ISBN: 9785752529931 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Museums & Universities
  • Minusinsk Regional Museum of N.M. Martyanov

    N.M. Martyanov [Minusinsk Regional] Museum was created in 1877 under the initiative of local man N.M. Martyanov. Exhibits including birds. Lenina 60, Minusinsk, Krasnoyarsky kray, Russia, 662800 Phone: +7 39132 22297; +7 39132 20054

Abbreviations Key

  • NR Azas Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    Azas Reserve is a Russian 'Zapovednik' (strict nature reserve), located in the central part of the Todzha basin (a large intermountain trough within the Altai-Sayan mountain region) of south-central Asia about 500 km west of Lake Baikal. The reserve stretches along the Azas River, and is situated in the Todzhinsky District of Tuva. The animal life in the reserve has not yet been fully studied, but is typical of the Altai-Sayan mountain country and the base steppe sections.
  • NR Bolshoy Arktichesky Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Bolshoy Arktichesky Reserve is located on the northern outskirts of Krasnoyarsky kray in the territory Taimyrsky Autonomous Okrug. It was created in 1993. The area consists of 4,169,200 hectares and is located on the northern coast of the Taimyr Peninsula and its adjacent islands. The reserve comprises seven departments. Box 126, Shorsa 1, Dudinka, Taimyrsky AO, Russia, 663210
  • NR Central Siberia

    WebpageSatellite View
    Tsentralno-Sibirsky Reserve is a strict nature reserve. With over 1 million hectares of protected area, it is one of the largest forest reserves in the world. The reserve is located in the middle Yenisei River and Podkamennaya Tunguska River valleys, of the Central Siberian Plateau. The reserve is known for large concentrations of elk along the Yenisei during winter. Overall, the terrestrial animal life of the reserve is that of the north central boreal forest: sable, reindeer, etc. The Yenisei is a flyway for migratory birds, and the reserve is popular for bird-watching excursions.
  • NR Khakassia

    InformationSatellite View
    This is a Russian strict nature reserve covering two large mountain areas (alpine and mountain-steppe), and a cluster of seven steppe sites located within the left bank of the Minusinsk depression. The reserve is situated in the Tashtypsky District of Khakassia.[1][2] It was originally created to preserve steppe ecosystems, wetlands and waterfowl nesting sites. The animal life of the reserve is characteristic of the northern Sayan mountain steppe and forest region. Characteristics mammals of the steppe are the steppe lemming, vole, and common field mouse. Larger mammals are the hare, fox and deer. Scientists on the reserve have recorded 52 species of mammals and 295 species of birds
  • NR Putorana

    InformationSatellite View
    Putoransky State Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in the northern part of Central Siberia, located about 100 km north of the Arctic Circle in Krasnoyarsk Krai. There are 34 mammal species including one of the rarest known hoofed animals - the Putorana bighorn sheep (Ovis nivicola borealis). About 140 bird species have been noted in the reserve. Reindeer migration routes cross the reserve.
  • NR Sayano-Shushenskiy

    InformationSatellite View
    Sayano-Shushenskiy Reserve is a strict ecological reserve in a remote area of the West Sayan Mountains of south Siberia. It is on the southern bank of the Yenisei River along the Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir. The reserve thus protects a large section of the wooded, mountainous territory above the reservoir created by the Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam, the largest power plant in Russia. There are a small number of snow leopards in the reserve. Over 100 species of birds are recorded. Those representative of the Siberian taiga include the Eurasian nuthatch, blue nightingale, nightingale whistler, nutcracker, Himalayan Cuckoo, and grouse. The bearded partridge is typical of the rocky steppe areas, and birds of prey such as ospreys, falcons and eagles are common throughout.
  • NR Taymyr

    InformationSatellite View
    Taymyr Nature Reserve is a strict nature reserve located in the northern lowlands of Siberia, on the Taimyr Peninsula, and on the coast of the Laptev Sea of the Arctic Ocean. The reserve includes the most northern forest of Dahurian larch in the world, and also the most northern mainland mountain range in the world. The protected area was established to protect the breeding grounds of the Red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) as well as the summer residences of wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and the biodiversity of the Lake Taymyr. The reserve attracts large number of waterfowl, from 21 species, most of which nest on the site. Geese populations in the tens of thousands collect on Lake Taymyr, and the reserve supports the vulnerable Red-breasted goose. A common site is the Wheatear. Most of the migratory birds are only on the reserve site for four months, from May to September.
  • NR Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina

    WebpageSatellite View
    Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Reserve is located on the southern edges of the Republic Tuva within the Erzinsky, Tes-Khemsky and Mongun-Taiginsky districts. From zoogeographical point of view Ubsunurskaya hollow is characterized by a unique combination of desert (Chlamydotis undulata, desert wheatear, midday gerbil, hairy-footed jerboa), steppe (Melanocorypha mongolica, Cricetulus barabensis, and Ochotona daurica), taiga
  • NS Stolby

    InformationSatellite View
    This is a Russian strict ecological reserve located 10 km south of the city of Krasnoyarsk, on the northwestern spurs of the Eastern Sayan Mountains. Fauna has a pronounced taiga aspect (red-backed mouse, sable, Siberian musk deer, hazel grouse and others) with the inclusion of forest-steppe animals (Siberian roe deer, steppe polecat, long-tailed ground squirrel and others) and a range of birds including osprey, golden eagle, saker falcon, peregrine falcon and others.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Ecological Travel Centre

    Tour Operator
    Yenisey - birds of Central Siberia

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