South Russia

Great (White) Egret Ardea alba ©Pavlo Zaltowski
Birding South Russia

For the purposes of setting out birding information we have divied Russia into a number of regions – South Russia consists of the Republics of Kalmykia and the ‘Krays’ of Krasnodar and Stavropol and the ‘Oblasts’ of Rostove, Volgograd, Astrakhan and Saratov.

The spacious valleys of South Russia can give satisfaction to the most fastidious birdwatchers and travelers. Here you can enjoy the Russian steppes, which are most attractive in spring. At this time they looks like an unbroken carpet of flowers. The largest and most beautiful European river – the Volga – flows through the region. It is a draw for a number of waterfowls and waterside birds. Herons, Ducks and Gulls all breed on reed-covered river channels. Pelicans can be found on the lakes near the Caspian Sea Shore. The Steppe avifauna is, of course, different. Here you can find such interesting species as Steppe Eagle, Serpent Eagle, Demoiselle Crane and Little Bustard.

Top Sites
  • Manych-Gudilo Lake

    InformationSatellite View
    This lake is interesting because of its water, which is saline rather then fresh. The most important areas for birds are the lake islands. Numerous colonies of Slender-Billed Gull, Black-winged Stilt and Pratincole can be found here. Also it’s easy to observe other water loving species around the islands, such as Herring Gull, Common Tern, Gull-billed Tern, White Heron, Glossy Ibis and so on. Moreover, Manych-Gudilo Lake serves as the breeding site of colonial waterbirds. Among then the most attractive are White and Dalmatin Pelicans and Pied Avocet. The lake is situated along the largest migration airway, which connects West Siberia, Taimyr with the Middle East and North-West Africa. This lake is one of the largest stopover points of migrating Geese. For example, more than 30% of the world population of Red-breasted Geese stops over every year and it’s a really unforgettable sight.
  • Syniy Syrt

    If you are interested in steppe avifauna then this site is especially for you. This is the region of unbroken steep valleys covered by European feather-grass and other beautiful plants. And, without any doubt, you will enjoy meeting up with Steppe Eagles, Serpent Eagles, Demoiselle Cranes, Little Bustards and Ruddy Shelduck.
  • Tcherebayevskaya Floodplain

    This site includes a part of the Volgogrsdskoe reservoir shoreline lined with reeds, cattail and willow bushes, and some sand islands. You can find numerous colonies of White Egret. Some other unusual bird species are present, for example, Red-necked Grebe, Mute Swan, Water Rail, Terek Sandpiper and White-tailed Eagle which also breed here. In summer, mostly during July and August, big gatherings (more than 200 birds) of Great Black-headed Gulls can be found on the shoals. In the autumn migration season a large diversity of Ducks arrive, the largest in number of them are Mallard, Golden-eye, Scaup and Tufted Duck.
  • Volgo-Achtubinskay Floodplain

    The system of river channels, lakes and streams form different wetland complexes. The most common of these are floodplain meadows, oak forests and river valley mixed forests. These exceptional landscapes represent the last naturally retained part of the Volga-river valley. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the Volgo-Achtubinskay Floodplain. Among them there are such interesting birds as Purple Heron, Pond Heron, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, White-eyed Duck, White-headed Duck, Osprey, Serpent Eagle, Avocet, Shelduck, Caspian Tern, Thickknee and Marsh Sandpiper. The collection of passerine birds is also rich, and maybe the most unusual of them is Penduline tit.
  • RBCU Branch - Saratov

    RBCU–SB was founded in 1994. It has as a major objective the protection of the Great Bustard and Little Bustard. It has 81 members. The Saratov oblast contains the largest population (approximately 7,000 birds) in Russia of the Great Bustard (Drofa in Russian). Russia's population of the Great Bustard is the second largest in the world after Spain. ul. Strelkovoy divizii 53, 6/9, 5th floor 410028 Saratov E-mail:;; Contact: Andrei Varlamov, member.

Abbreviations Key

  • NR Astrakhan

    InformationSatellite View
    Astrakhan Nature Reserve is a Russian 'zapovednik' (strict nature reserve) covering an area including the islands and wetlands of the Volga Delta, where the Volga River enters the northwest sector of the Caspian Sea. The landscape is one of extensive reeds, cattails and willows and is an important nesting area for waterfowl and wading birds. The areas is rich in fish, with 50 species recorded, including beluga sturgeon. There are wolves living permanently in all three sectors of the reserve. The migratory bird season is March to November. The reserve has recorded 283 species of birds, 99 of which nest on the site (and 27 of which are listed as vulnerable in the Red Book of Russia) and 155 of which are seen in periods of migration and wintering.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Ecological Travel Center - Migrating birds of Volga delta

    Tour Operator
    The Volga delta is the largest in Europe and it occupies a triangle of 100 (length) x 200 (wide) km. A lot of different landscapes can be found when on the way from Astrakhan through the delta to the Caspian Sea. Extensive pastures are crisscrossed by broad waterways and fast running streams, which turn into well developed floodplain forests with huge amounts of willows, poplars and alders. Typical birds of the area are: Great Black-headed Gull, White-tailed Eagle, Caspian Tern, Dalmatian Pelican, Penduline Tit, Night Heron and Cetti's Warbler
Trip Reports
  • 2016 [06 June] - Ben Macdonald - The Astrakhan Steppes

    PDF Report
    One of the great privileges of the working for the Netflix ‘Our Planet’ series, from 2015 to 2017, was the rare opportunity to see both the Mongolian & Russian steppe over the course of eight week’s filming, along with the wonderful cameraman and fellow birder John Aitchison forcompany. Working eighteen-hour days to capture the intimate lives of Saiga Antelope, Corsac Foxes and Steppe Eagles made this anything but a holiday, but we were nonetheless able to observe a range of species in a part of southern Russia visited by few other birders. We were able to enter the country, and the Stepnoi Reserve, on a carefully-negotiated filming Visa, but those seeking to follow should first email Anna Lushkenina ( for Stepnoi access. Nikolai Stepkin (, a keen birder, is also an excellent translator who could be of great help to anyone wishing to bird around the Astrakhan and Liman steppes.

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