INTRODUCTION

WELCOME TO THE BIRDS OF KAZAKHSTAN.

While still a state within the former USSR, access to Kazakhstan was limited and individual travelling was prohibited. After its independence in 1991, the Republic of Kazakhstan opened up to foreigners and now it is possible to travel through most of the country.

Since independence, birders, birdwatchers and field ornithologists found their way to Kazakhstan, mostly through organized bird tours, at with which the lack of accessible information about the birds of Kazakhstan became apparent.

This constantly updated site, dealing with all bird species (and subspecies), their status, habitat, distribution and migration, begins to meet the need for avifaunistic information. Furthermore, it may well not only stimulate travel to the many little-known -sometimes vast- regions of Kazakhstan but also produce much new and important data.

Such a consequence would be a valuable addition to our current knowledge because the national distribution and migration patterns of many bird species through Kazakhstan are only partly known. Even finding new breeding species is a real possibility.

Therefore, I would be most grateful to receive comments (including corrections and additions), records, trip reports, photos, soundrecordings and other relevant information to improve this site.

 

Arend Wassink

 

Kazakhstan is situated in Central Asia. It stretches 2,925 km from the Volga delta in the west, to the Altai in the east and 1,600 km from the West Siberian Lowland in the north to the Kyzylkum desert in the south. Kazakhstan is bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It is the ninth largest country in the world with a territory of 2,725,000 km².

 

Lowland plains with steppes, semi-deserts and deserts form 60% of the surface area, arid foothills 30% and mountains 10%. The largest deserts are the Kyzylkum and Betpak-Dala deserts, both in southern Kazakhstan. High mountains fringe the eastern and south-eastern borders. The largest are the Altai, divided in a southern and a western part, and the Tien Shan, divided in a northern part (the eastern Kirgizskiy Alatau, the Zailiyskiy Alatau, the Kungey Alatau and the Ketmen mountains), a central part (the Terskey Alatau) and a western part (the western Kirgizskiy Alatau, the Talasskiy Alatau, the Kharzantau and the Ugamskiy mountains). Only 3.8% of the total surface area is occupied by forest, mainly in the northern parts of the country and in high-mountain slope valleys and riparian areas. Kazakhstan also knows dramatic differences in altitude. The lowest point is the Karagiye depression in Mangghystau province with –132 m; the highest point is the Khan Tengri mountain in the Tien Shan with 6995 m.

Kolasu ravine at the northern slopes of the Zhungarskiy Alatau, one of the larger mountain ranges, Almaty province, 7 May 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Habitat of Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus, Booted Eagle Aquila pennata and Blackbird Turdus merula

 

There is an extensive network of rivers and several large lakes. Many of the rivers drain within the country, although the Ishim, Irtysh and Tobol rivers flow north into Russia and eventually drain into the Arctic Ocean. The river beds of most of the small- and medium-sized rivers remain dry for much of the year because of dry-weather conditions. One of the largest rivers, the Syrdarya, enters Kazakhstan from Uzbekistan in the south and follows a north-westerly course towards the Lesser Aral Sea, a saltwater lake.

Syrdarya river, South Kazakhstan province, 2 September 2009 (René Pop).

The Ural river enters north-western Kazakhstan from Russia and drains into the Caspian Sea, a saltwater lake that is the largest inland body of water in the world. Another large river, the Ili, enters Kazakhstan from China and drains into Lake Balkhash, a large lake in the eastern part of the country. Other large lakes include Zaysan lake (freshwater) and the Alakol and Tengiz lakes (saltwater).

Eastern Balkhash lake, Almaty province, 3 July 2007 (Mark Zekhuis). The eastern half of this lake is saline, the western half is fresh water.

 

The climate of Kazakhstan is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Temperatures vary by region, with the most dramatic differences between deserts and mountains. The southern regions have milder winters and hotter summers than the northern and central ones. The steppes experience especially harsh winters due to strong cold winds from the north. Depending on the region, the mean daily temperature in January ranges between –19 and –4°C and in July between 19 and 26°C . Summer temperatures can reach 45°C and winter temperatures can drop to –45°C.

 

Annual precipitation levels are generally low, ranging between less than 100 mm (desert) and 250-350 mm (steppe). Summer thunderstorms often produce flash floods in steppe areas. In winter most of the country is covered in snow. In the mountains, where high peaks are perpetually snow capped, precipitation averages 1,500 mm per year.

In Kazakhstan, six terrestrial biomes are identified: 1. Boreal forest (taiga): northernmost Kazakhstan, with the most southern parts in the Altai. 2. Eurasian steppe: northern Kazakhstan, south into the foothills of the high mountains in the south. 3. Eurasian desert and semi-desert: southern Kazakhstan, west to the Caspian lowlands. 4. Eurasian high montane: the Tien Shan, Zhungarskiy Alatau, Saur mountains and the Altai. 5.Irano-Turanian mountains: the Karatau mountains (South Kazakhstan-Zhambyl provinces) and the cliff faces of the Ustyurt plateau. 6. Sino-Himalayan temperate forest: the Tien Shan (Sklyarenko et al 2008).

Increasing sun heat and decreasing precipitation from north to south is responsible for the gradual change of natural zones. In a vertical direction this also applies to the high mountains in eastern and south-eastern Kazakhstan, where air temperature decreases and precipitation increases upwards. Different geological structures and soils, together with the presence of many rivers and lakes, further contribute to a wide variety of natural landscapes and ecosystems. Many of these are represented in the major ecoregions mentioned hereafter.

Kazakh forest steppe

The Kazakh forest steppe ecoregion is quite different from the forest steppe in European Russia. It is situated 300-500 km farther to the north of the similar landscape in European Russia, has a more continental climate, a flat relief and a much higher percentage of wetlands. It stretches from Petropavlovsk in North Kazakhstan province, east to the middle Irtysh river. The width of the forest steppe zone is 150-250 km. It contains numerous shallow lakes, containing both fresh- and saltwater. The main vegetation types are meadow steppe, forest and swamp, enriched by boreal, subboreal and steppe vegetations. Forests contain birch, birch-aspen and pine; the latter forming long belts, the so-called ‘ribbon forests’.

Kazakh upland

The Kazakh upland ecoregion is situated considerably higher than the surrounding West Siberian and Turgay plains. It consists of three isolated parts, which are similar in relief but have a different vegetation. The northern part, the Kokchetav upland, consists of low island granite mountains of 600-900 m. The landscape is a forest steppe containing grasses, deciduous forests (poplar and birch) and, due to high soil humidity, pine forests on granite rocks and at bogs. The southern part (the Karkaraly mountains, the Kent mountains, the Kyzyltau and the Bayanaul mountains) is the highest steppe region in Kazakhstan, at an altitude of 1,000-1,500 m. It contains pine, birch and aspen forests and wet steppes, and mountain steppes at high altitudes. In the south-east the steppes of the Aqtau and Ortau uplands lack pine forests and consist of feathergrasses and shrubs. In the east the low Chingiztau, with altitudes of 1,000-1,300 m, show a changing of steppes; from desert steppes and dry shrub steppes to meadow steppes with brushwood.

Heath at Makinsk on the Koksetau upland, 5 May 2011 (Patrick Franke). Breeding birds in this habitat include Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix viridanus, Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus maurus, Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis and Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos.

Forest at Zhukey, Koksetau upland, 6 May 2011 (Patrick Franke). Among the breeding birds are Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus urogallus, Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus, Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus, Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Black Dryocopos martius, Great Dendrocopos major major, White-backed D leucotos and Lesser Woodpecker D minor, Northern Raven Corvus corax corax, Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus and Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula.

 

Kazakh steppe

The Kazakh steppe ecoregion is the world’s largest dry steppe region. Formerly being a continuous belt, stretching from the Ural river to the Altai foothills, it has been largely cultivated in the 1950s. However, after the collapse of the USSR and with that the agriculture, parts of this cultivated area are slowly turning into steppe again. The relief is either flat low plain or gentle hilly plain plateau, the altitudinal differences barely exceed 200 m. Some parts of the ecoregion, especially in the west and east, have progressive salt accumulation. Although several large rivers, such as the Ural and Irtysh rivers and their tributaries, traverse the region, most of the region is situated in closed basins, harbouring many lakes. Most of the area is occupied by steppe and dry steppe, with desert steppe being less common. These formations are dominated by compact turf plants, primarily feathergrasses Stipa, but also cushion-like plants, ephemers and ephemeroids, like tulip Tulipa and lily Gagea, and ‘perekati pole’ or tumbleweed. Steppe occupies plateaus, except depressions and gullies. Several types of meadow are found in deep depressions, communities of halophytes, meadow swamps and forested meadow swamps. Shrub steppe is also common in this ecoregion comprised of xerophyte shrub and several trees, like spirea Spiraea. During the growing season there are 6-12 waves of growth and flowering, during which different species replace each other. A particular species is abundant during only one wave, whereas almost undetectable during the rest of the season. Therefore a steppe’s appearance changes dramatically during the season.

 

The colourful Schrenck’s Tulip Tulipa schrenckii is characterstic for the steppes of central Kazakhstan in spring. Almas, Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region, Aqmola province, 7 May 2009 (Johannes Kamp). 

Feather grass swards (here Stipa lessingiana), Kaskatau, Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region, Aqmola province, 22 May 2006 (Johannes Kamp). A sharp decline in the number of natural and domestic grazers in many areas after the collapse of the Soviet Union have led to biomass accumulation, which frequently causes fires.

Steppe, east of Ereymentau, Aqmola province, 10 July 2007 (Johannes Kamp)

Kyzylzhuldys near Zharma, East-Kazakhstan province, 29 May 2008 (Johannes Kamp). Hilly, dry steppe grazed by domestic livestock, home to Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, scattered colonies of Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius, and White-winged Lark Melanocorypha leucoptera.

Altai alpine meadow and tundra

The Altai alpine meadow and tundra ecoregion occupies the extensive upland area that is situated between treeline and the high alpine landscapes. It also includes those areas below the treeline, which support alpine meadow vegetation. Due to the arctic character of the Altai, the alpine zone is low; the treeline is no higher than 2,400 m and high alpine landscapes of permanent ice, rock and scree are present at more than 3,000 m. The highland area, with low temperatures and a short growing season, supports alpine meadows and tundra’s, a vegetation type that constitutes a primary component of the Altai landscape. High plateaus have lichens and mosses as the principal ground cover. Below 2,400 m subalpine conifer forests cover a large area. Dominant trees here are Siberian larch and Siberian fir. Stands of these trees are part of a mosaic landscape that also includes meadow with an alpine component. Thus, at its lower margin, the distinction between this ecoregion and the Altai montane forest and forest steppe tends to blur.

Habitat near the snowline in the southern Altai, East Kazakhstan province, 24 June 2011 (Raffael Ayé). Species in this area include Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta and Asian Rosy Finch Leucosticte arctoa.

High alpine meadows in the southern Altai, East-Kazakhstan province, 24 June 2011 (Raffael Ayé). Habitat of Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus brevirostris, Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus, Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta and Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola.

Altai montane forest and forest steppe

The Altai montane forest and forest steppe ecoregion is situated in the highest mountain system in southern Siberia. The Altai divides the closed, arid watershed of inner Asia and the massive river drainages that flow northwards through Siberia into the Arctic Ocean, in Kazakhstan the Katun and Chyerniy Irtysh rivers. The Altai is a good example of the co-existence of steppe and forest in a mountain area. One of the characteristics of the forest-steppe zone is the coniferous forest found on cooler, moister north-facing slopes and the steppe vegetation that predominates on the other slopes. Desert and desert-steppe vegetations reach far into the southern regions.

Boreal coniferous forest in the western Altai, East Kazakhstan province, 18 June 2011 (Raffael Ayé). Habitat of Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola, Black-throated Thrush Turdus atrogularis, Eversmann’s Phoenicurus erythronotus and Common Redstart P phoenicurus, Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis and others.

 

Thickets in a clearing in boreal forest at the Paradise Valley mountain plateau, West-Altai nature reserve, East Kazakhstan province (Raffael Ayé). Habitat of Willow Tit Poecile montanus, Hume’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei, Siberian Chiffchaff P collybita tristis, Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope and Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis huttoni.

 

Forest rich in dead wood at c 1,750 m in the southern Altai, East Kazakhstan province, 21 June 2011 (Raffael Ayé). Habitat of, for instance, Rufous Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis meena, Spotted Nutcracker Nucrifaga caryocatactes, Grey-headed Chickadee Poecile cinctus and Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator.

  Cold pass at 1,600 m in the southern Altai, East Kazakhstan province, 29 June 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Woodland, mainly consisting of Siberian Larch Larix sibirica, and meadows. This habitat holds Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix mongolicus, Grey-headed Picus canus, Black Drycopus martius and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus tridactylus and Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus.

Alatai pass at 1,000 m in the southern Altai, East Kazakhstan province, 30 June 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Combination of rich meadows and conifer woodlands. Habitat of Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus taczanowskii, Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Grey Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula cineracea and Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos, and at higher altitudes of Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta, Bluethroat Luscinia svecica pallidogularis and Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope.

Altai steppe and semi-desert

The Altai steppe and semi-desert ecoregion is situated between the Kazakh desert plain and the montane Altai coniferous forests. The boundaries coincide with the arid steppes of the Altai-Saur-Tarbagatai, mountain ranges divided by deep hollows and altitudes of 800-4,500 m. This mountain-steppe landscape is characterized by shrub and steppe feathergrass vegetation, along with, for instance, dog rose, honeysuckle, hawthorn, willow and currant shrubs. At a slightly higher altitude in the south, a forested area contains birch, ash, poplar, cedar, fir and other trees.

North-western Tarbagatai mountain, East-Kazakhstan province, 9 May 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Rocky ridges and wide steppe, often with shrubby patches of Russian peashrub Caragana frutex. Among the species that breed here are Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo and Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus.

Southern slopes of the Saur mountains, East-Kazakhstan province, 27 June 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Habitat of Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix mongolicus, Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus and Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis.

 

Tien Shan montane steppe and meadows

The Tien Shan montane steppe and meadows ecoregion, with several distinct meadow and steppe communities, ranges from the base of the mountains at c 1,000 m to the edge of snowline at 3,300-4,200 m. The availability of moisture and the presence or absence of protective snow cover determines their characteristics. In general forest (mainly spruce) is restricted to north-facing slopes in the subalpine zone, intermixed with broad swaths of sedge-meadow. Elsewhere, meadow steppe is the dominant ground cover. The vegetation at 800-1,100 m consists of wormwood Artemisia steppe with grasses. At 1,100-1,500 m on south-facing slopes desert steppe is replaced by dry, sparse grassland and shrubs. This ‘grassland-steppe’ persists over a wide altitudinal range to merge with alpine vegetation at more than 2,700 m. The alpine zone here is dominated by low-growing sedge in the meadows. North-facing slopes are shrubbier at low altitudes and give way at c 2,500 m to a park-like forest-meadow mosaic, in which the meadows are dominated by grasses.

Kirgizskiy Alatau, Zhambyl province Kazakhstan, 8 May 2012 (Arend Wassink).

Alpine meadow and mountain slopes with patches of juniper shrub at c 3,000 m in Ili-Alatau national park, Almaty province, 16 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). The higher mountain slopes are the domain of Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis, the juniper shrub of species like Himalayan Rubythroat Calliope pectoralis and White-browed Tit-warbler Leptopoecile sophiae.

Big Almaty river in Ili-Alatau national park, Almaty province, 14 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). Although increasing pressure from tourism forms a threat, the pebble banks in the area where the river flows into Big Almaty lake still offer good breeding opportunities for a few pairs of Ibisbills Ibidorhyncha struthersii.

Tien Shan montane conifer forest

Despite its location in an arid part of Central Asia, the Tien Shan is high enough to intercept moist arctic air from the north-west, especially in winter. On the north-facing slopes, at 2,700-3,700 m, annual precipitation is sufficient to support large patches of subalpine coniferous forest. In Kazakhstan the northern and central parts of the system are dominated by spruce, sometimes growing up through a layer of broadleaved forest; at lower levels spruce associates with aspen, at higher levels with mountain ash, willow and birch. In the western Tien Shan, from the Aspara valley westwards, spruce are absent, limiting the occurrence of a number of bird species in this part of the Tien Shan.

Western Tien Shan steppe

The Western Tien Shan steppe ecoregion includes the vast foothill plains in the western Tien Shan and the arid and subarid Karatau. Most of the area is covered by raised foothill plains and foothills. This region is characterized by a rich diversity of flora with a high level of endemism (1,700 species, of which 153 endemics in the Karatau). The lower areas of the foothill plains are occupied by low herbs. In low areas of the western Tien Shan region tall herbs are important. The steppes are characterized by northern steppe vegetation (feathergrass Stipa and fescue Festuca) and a variation of brushwoods. Pears, almonds, hawthorns, pistachios and Caucasian hackberries (‘iron trees’) Celtis caucasica grow in gorges.

Lower parts of the Talasskiy Alatau in the western Tien Shan, South Kazakhstan province, 30 August 2009 (René Pop).

The Kenshektau mountains occupy the central part of the north-eastern, main slope of the northern Karatau South Kazakhstan province, 16 May 2012 (Arend Wassink). Steep cliffs harbour Bearded Gypaetus barbatus, Egyptian Neophron percnopterus and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus and colonies of Alpine Apus melba and Common Swift A apus. Other species found here are, for instance, Upcher’s Warbler Hippolais languida, White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis and White-capped Bunting Emberiza stewarti.

Tien Shan foothill steppe

The Tien Shan foothill steppe ecoregion breaks down into a complex series of ridges and lake basins that extend westwards towards the steppes of Central Asia. The mountains and foothills in this ecoregion are exposed to moist air from western Siberia. Due to increased precipitation and diverse habitats, the Kazakh foothills of the Tien Shan have a rich vegetation. River basins at the foot of the mountains support a shrub and meadow savanna with poplars and large sand dunes. Grasses along the Ili river in eastern Kazakhstan include feathergrass Stipa and fescue Festuca; the dominant shrubs are wormwood Artemisia. Lower foothills (150-660 m) support semi-desert vegetation dominated by salt-tolerant shrubs, like Tamarix, together with wormwood Artemisia steppe. The major rivers, including the Syrdarya, Ili and Chu, flow generally westwards. Deciduous forests grow at 1,200-1,700 m.

Sugaty plain, South Kazakhstan province, 7 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). In most years, good numbers of Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus can be found here.

Sugaty plain, Almaty province, 7 May 2011 (Arend Wassink) This habitat holds a high density of Asian Desert Warbler Sylvia nana.

Low mountains with the Charyn valley in the distance, Almaty province, 14 May 2011 (Arend Wassink).

Central Asian northern desert

The Central Asian northern desert ecoregion includes Mangghystau province, the central Ustyurt desert and the northern and southern areas at Lake Balkhash. The relief of this ecoregion is varied; low littoral plains near the Caspian Sea, arid plateaus (the northern Ustyurt desert and the western Betpak-Dala desert), stony plains and a highly eroded plateau (Mangghystau province, the eastern Betpak-Dala desert and the northern area at Lake Balkhash) are represented here. There are also sandy deserts (the Muyunkum) and sandy regions at the northern Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash. These vast areas are composed of the clay-alluvial and alluvial delta plains found in the lower reaches of the Chu, Ili and Emba rivers. Perennial saltworts predominate in the northern deserts, like sagebrushes, semi-shrub, shrub and grasses, depending on the different soils.

 

Sarysu river in the Moyynkum sands, part of the Betpak-Dala desert, Qyzylorda province, 13 June 2010 (Johannes Kamp). Species rich habitat with good numbers of Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii, Black-bellied Pterocles orientalis, Pin-tailed P alchata  and Pallas’s Syrrhaptes paradoxus Sandgrouse and Asian Desert Warbler Sylvia nana.

Sand dunes at Amangeldy in the Turgay region, Oostanay province, 31 July 2009 (Johannes Kamp).

 Central Asian southern desert

The Central Asian southern desert ecoregion includes southern Mangghystau province, including the southern Ustyurt desert, and the central Kyzylkum desert, where the low (760-920-m) Arystanbeltau and Pistelitau can be found. In the sand deserts and sandy areas saxaul occupies large areas, together with other shrubs and sagebrushes, while acacia’s grow on sand hills. Saltworts dominate on clay soils and succulent semishrubs grow on the low plains at the Caspian Sea coast and depressions.

Kazakh semi-desert

The Kazakh semi-desert ecoregion is a transition zone between steppe and desert consisting of vast plains and highly eroded plateaus. The ecoregion stretches from the Ural river and the border of the Caspian lowland desert up to the east and includes the lower Ural plateau, the northern Turanian lowland at the Aral Sea and the southern Turgay plateau. Bunch-grass steppe with shrubs and dwarf semi-shrub desert with grasses dominate here. Bunch grasses and tipchak Festuca valesiaca dominate in the desert steppe. Sagebrushes constitute a significant portion of the plant communities. Large areas on the saline plains are characterized by halophytic vegetation, including wormwood Artemisia and perennial saltwort. The processes of desert pedogenesis are distinctly expressed in the southern part of the ecoregion. Different types of sagebrush deserts with characteristic grasses can be found throughout the region. On the plateaus shrubs are abundant.

Hilly semi-desert east of Zhezkazgan, Qaraghandy province, 9 June 2006 (Johannes Kamp). Typical habitat of Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka in central Kazakhstan.

 Zaisan-semi-desert-(Vladimir-Kolbintsev)

Kein-Kerish-canyon-12-May-2012-(Vladimir-Koltbintsev)

Zaysan semi-desert (upper plate) with Kein-Kerish canyon (lower plate), 12 May 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). This area is prime habitat for Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius, Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii, Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus, Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo, Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti and Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus, while Common Swifts Apus apus are always around during season.

 

Caspian lowland desert

The Caspian lowland desert ecoregion encompasses the deserts at the northern and eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, with elevations ranging from 28 m below sea level to 100 m above sea level. Three rivers traverse the region from the north on their way to the Caspian Sea, the Volga, Ural and Emba rivers. In the eastern part of the Caspian lowland stretch the Ustyurt and Mangghystau plateaus. These plateaus often form spectacular escarpments. Sand ridges and unstabilized dune sands, salt deserts, salt pans and clay deserts are typical. The salt pans, 30-40 cm thick, are often completely devoid of vegetation, exhibiting smooth salt-covered surfaces, which gleam brilliantly in the sunlight. Plateaus are occupied by stabilized sand massifs. The Caspian coast is characterized by a semi-desert flora, with Sueda and wormwood Artemisia being the dominant vegetation types. Marshy areas, such as the Volga and Ural deltas, hold major areas of reed and cattail, together with a variety of other submerging and emerging plants.

Wetlands

The 50,000 lakes and many rivers, streams and marshes are mainly found in lowland areas. In addition to the 6 million hectares of flood plains, 2.2 million hectares of water meadows and riparian forest exist, together with the littoral zones of the Caspian and Aral Seas. The Caspian Sea is the largest inland water body in the world (400,000 km2), including wetlands and islands, and considered an independent zoogeographical region due to the diversity and endemism of its fauna.

Kenderli bay, part of the eastern Caspian Sea, 28 August 2010 (Arend Wassink). Large numbers of ducks, waders and gulls pass here during migration.

The Topar lakes are part of the Topar river system the south-western extremity of the Ili river delta, Almaty province, 12 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). Among the many species that breed here are Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, Shikra Accipiter badius, Yellow-eyed Pigeon Columba eversmanni, White-winged Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucopterus and in the extensive reedbeds, the very local Black-headed Penduline Tit Remiz macronyx ssaposhnikowi.

Old willow flood plain forest at Baschmachnoe in the Irtysh valley, Pavlodar province, 16 May 2007 (Johannes Kamp). This forest is inhabited by, for instance, White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos and Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus. It is also one of the very few locations were Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca breeds in Kazakhstan.

Irtysh river flood plain at Zhanabet, Pavlodar province, 7 May 2007 (Johannes Kamp). After the water retreats, the flood plain meadows hold large populations of Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Spotted Crake Porzana porzana, Corncrake Crex crex, Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Common Redshank Tringa totanus.

Chyerniy Irtysh river, East Kazakhstan province, 11 May 2012 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). This river flows from China into Kazakhstan, ending in a vast delta at the eastern shore of Zaysan lake. Apart from large colonies of Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, it is one of the few sites where Osprey Pandion haliaetus breeds in Kazakhstan.

Within the biomes and ecoregions a huge number of habitats occur. These are accurately described in Birds of Central Asia (Ayé et al 2012) and mostly followed here.

 

Kazakhstan has a number of nature reserves, national parks and other protected areas, of which Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve, founded in 1927, is the oldest.

Zhabagly river in Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve, South Kazakhstan province, 15 September 2009 (René Pop). Year round, both Brown Cinclus pallasii and White-throated Dipper C cinclus leucogaster occur here. In winter, this is also a good spot to find Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria.

Aksu canyon in Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve, South Kazakhstan province, 25 April 2012 (Arend Wassink). One of the very few locations in Kazakhstan where Rufous-naped Tit Periparus rufonuchalis breeds.

 Naurzum pine forest, part of Naurzum nature reserve, Qostanay province, 2 August 2009 (Johannes Kamp). Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca is one of the many raptors that breed here.

Apart from these protected areas, other large parts of Kazakhstan still harbour wild and beautiful nature but, as in many other parts of the world, it is threatened in various ways.

The natural ecosystems and with these the avian community are negatively affected by the following reasons. (1) Loss or degradation of habitat through direct conversion or exploitation of natural ecosystems by conversion of steppes to arable agriculture and cotton production, deforestation, drainage of wetlands and overgrazing by domestic livestock. (2) Loss or degradation of habitat through indirect effects of changing land-use patterns, such as changing water balances through poor irrigation practices, diversion of water through hydro schemes, overuse of agricultural inputs (fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) and effects of industrial pollution. (3) Over-exploitation of individual species by hunting, persecution and trade (Levin 2011). (4) Mass killing of birds through collision and electrocution by power lines (Kovshar 1966; Karyakin and Barabashin 2005; Karyakin et al 2005; Lasch et al 2010; Saraev and Pestov 2011; Pestov et al 2012; Voronova et al 2012).

Halting these threats and neutralizing the negative effects of them is often a long and slow process. An important and effective step in conservation and restoration of the ecosystems and natural landscapes is the creation of a network of protected areas. National parks and nature reserves play a crucial role in conservation, are extremely valuable for education and can serve as facilities for regulated recreation and ecotourism. A very important step has been made by the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) in partnership with Birdlife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), by defining and publishing Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) in Kazakhstan (Sklyarenko et al 2008). Also, the ACBK encourages young students in participating in (mainly conservation) research. These people are likely to become the fundament of nature protection in Kazakhstan.

René van Dijk, Dutch researcher, and Vera Voronova, biology student then and currently chairman of the ACBK, ringing a White-crowned Penduline Tit in the context of a research project on the social behaviour of penduline tits, Talasskiy Alatau, 25 May 2008 (Sander Bot)

 

Kazakhstan is still behind many countries in respect to the number of protected areas, game reserves and natural monuments in relation to its surface area. However, major improvements have been made by the Kazakh government, for instance, by the inclusion of IBA’s in the law on Specially Protected Nature Areas, the designation of the Ili river delta and southern Lake Balkhash (amidst the Sary-Ishikotrau and Taukum deserts) as the ninth Wetland of International Importance,  and the creation of the Altyn Dala nature reserve with a surface of 489,766 ha! (source: ACBK). A further growing awareness of the environmental and economic values of Kazakhstan’s nature may hopefully lead to the protection of much larger parts of the country, in which all ecosystems are represented.

You all can be of help by joining the ACBK (www.acbk.kz) and with that stimulating and supporting the work of this organisation.

At least 504 species (of which 386 regularly breed) have been recorded in Kazakhstan. An additional number of rejected species and subspecies, which are not adequately substantiated given the standards of record documentation currently expected, are listed in Rejected Species and Subspecies.

Kazakhstan has a high avian diversity, mainly due to its topography and diversity of habitats. It does not harbour endemic species but includes species, like Pander’s Ground Jay, a Central Asian endemic. In addition by far the largest part of the breeding ranges of Sociable Lapwing and White-winged and Black Larks is found in Kazakhstan. It also holds the largest portion of the Asian population of White-headed Duck. Some species, like Yellow-eyed Dove and Saxaul Sparrow, are common in saxaul and remnant patches of Turanga forest (Turanga Populus diversifolia is an endemic species of poplar) found along the lower stretches of larger rivers in Central Asia but rare elsewhere. Species usually associated with the taiga, like White-winged Scoter, Oriental Cuckoo, Red-flanked Bluetail, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay breed in northern and/or eastern Kazakhstan but not in other Central Asian countries. Several mainly Himalayan species find the northern limit of their breeding ranges in the mountains of the east and south-east. These include Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Ibisbill, Brown Dipper, Altai Accentor, White-tailed Rubythroat, and Eversmann’s and Güldenstädt’s Redstarts.

Cosmos station at 3,500 m in the Zailiyskiy Alatau, Almaty province, 16 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). This is probably the easiest accessible site in Kazakhstan to find high altitude species like Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogaster and Altai Accentor Prunella himalayana. Irregularly, the rare Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus occurs here.

There are also species that have their main breeding ranges more to the east into Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East, such as Relict Gull, Richard’s Pipit, Siberian Rubythroat and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. With such a large part of the country being desert, semi-desert or steppe, it is not surprising that many species, which favour these habitats, such as Pallid Harrier, Macqueen’s Bustard, Caspian Plover, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Variable Wheatear, Finsch’s Wheatear, Brown-necked Raven and Desert Finch, can be found breeding. Kazakhstan’s position in the centre of the Eurasian landmass and its huge size mean that many migrants pass through. Many of these, such as Red-breasted Geese, Demoiselle Crane, Red-necked Phalarope, European Bee-eater and Black-throated Thrush, occur in vast numbers. In winter many high-altitude species, like Solitary Snipe and rosefinches, descend to valleys in the foothills, while other mountain species, like most accentors and White-winged Snowfinch, stay in or close to their breeding areas. Many species winter only in southernmost Kazakhstan, especially in mild winters. Species, like Rough-legged Buzzard, Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting and Yellowhammer, and many residents, like tits and woodpeckers, also or mainly winter in northern Kazakhstan.

Study of bird migration in Central Asia revealed that several strategies are used to and from wintering ranges in Africa, the Middle East, southern Central Asia and southern Asia.

It has become clear that transit populations of nocturnal passerine migrants breeding in the Central and Eastern Palearctic avoid crossing the highland barrier of western Central Asia, including the Tien Shan, in both seasons (Irwin and Irwin 2005). In autumn the bulk of Palearctic-African passerine migrants from east of the Urals also avoid crossing the deserts of Central Asia (the Ustyurt, Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts) and make a detour through the steppes and semi-deserts north of the Caspian Sea (Volga-Ural region). In spring passerines mainly pass through the deserts in a wide front. These different seasonal strategies are explained by the fact that in autumn the deserts offer little refuelling possibilities due to their arid character, whereas in spring, after the wet winter period, the deserts are much more productive and offer good foraging possibilities (Bulyuk and Chernetsov 2005). On the other hand there are species that cross the deserts in both seasons, like Macqueen’s Bustard (Combreau et al 1999) and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Common and Demoiselle Cranes cross the Tien Shan in autumn, whereas in spring they follow the north-facing slopes of the Tien Shan. Raptors also have different migration strategies in spring and autumn. For instance in southern Kazakhstan large numbers of birds migrate through the Talasskiy Alatau and its foothills in autumn, while in spring they migrate on a much wider front. Some species, like Relict Gull and Red-flanked Bluetail, have a westerly-orientated migration in spring and an easterly-orientated migration in autumn.

Chokpak pass is the most renowned place for bird migration in Kazakhstan and for good reasons. It is situated at the western end of the Tien Shan, between the Zhabaglytau and the Borolday mountains in South Kazakhstan province, where huge numbers pass this natural flyway through the mountains to and from India, the Middle East and Africa.

Helgoland traps at Chokpak ringing station, South Kazakhstan province, 12 September 2009 (René Pop).

Chokpak Gate with view on Zhabagly, 1 July 2013 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). Huge numbers of birds pass through this narrow corridor, especially in autumn.

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Zhabagly, South Kazakhstan province. 14 September 2009 (René Pop). Hundreds of thousands pass through the Western Tien Shan foothills. On days with favourable weather conditions, calls of migrating flocks can be heard from dawn to dusk.

Other important migration routes, especially for waterfowl, are the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn (with an estimated 1,300,000 – 2,100,000 birds in autumn) (Schielzeth et al 2010) and Turgay flyways, consisting of systems of fresh- and saltwater lakes. However there are also other locations, like the Volga and Ural deltas, the Syrdarya river and the Zhungarian Gate, where migrants concentrate. The same applies to oases, like Kolshengel in the Taukum desert and the ‘Kenderli resort’ at Fetisovo at the eastern Caspian coast, which act as migrant traps. Undoubtedly other places still have to be discovered but both in spring and in autumn, every body of water and artesian well in desert, semi-desert and steppe can attract large numbers of birds.

Zhungarian Gate with the Zhungarskiy Alatau on the background, 5 May 2013 (Vladimir Kolbintsev). An at least recently little studied migration route from and to China runs through this area.

Birtaban lake, Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region, Aqmola province, 20 April 2008 (Johannes Kamp). The large freshwater lakes of the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region are important stopover sites for Siberian duck and wader populations. The region can hold over two million waterbirds at times.

Tengiz lake, Aqmola province, 22 May 2006 (Johannes Kamp). This large salt lake is an important stopover site for Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus (up to 3,000 birds) and Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus (several hundred thousand in spring). It is also home to a massive colony Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus, the species’ most northern regular breeding site of the world.

Four impressions of Kyzylkol lake and its immediate surroundings, situated in the northern Karatau foothills, South Kazakhstan province, September 2009 (upper three plates René Pop lower plate Arend Wassink). The area is a spectacular hotspot for a wide variety of migrants.

Wish Tree (a local custom, where travellers tie pieces of cloth to a tree and make a wish) between Kurti and Kolshengel, South Kazakhstan province, 13 May 2011 (Arend Wassink). This particular tree is worth having a look at, as it regularly holds tens of passerine species during migration.

Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo Chardara lake, South Kazakhstan province, 6 September 2009 (René Pop). Large numbers of these beautiful birds pass through the Western Tien Shan and adjoining plains.

Apart from the migration between breeding and wintering ranges, in summer huge numbers of waterfowl make their annual moult migration to lake and river systems, estuaries and deltas, virtually throughout Kazakhstan, whereas Common Crane mainly moult in northernmost Kazakhstan. This migration does not only involve Kazakh breeding birds but also many birds originating from Siberia and beyond.

Species taxonomy and nomenclature follow van den Berg’s (2008; online update 1 July 2013) list of Western Palearctic bird species. For the remaining Eastern Palearctic and Oriental species Gill and Donsker (2013) are followed. Subspecies taxonomy and nomenclature are consistent with Dickinson & van Remsen (2013).

The map show the major biogeographical zones. Lines, dots, stars and a set of four arrows show the species’ presence. The single arrows connected to a line point towards the direction in which the range should be interpretated. For details, see the Map Legenda at the species accounts. Systematically mapping Kazakhstan’s breeding birds would add a wealth of new information. This daunting but challenging task will be far from easy due to the country’s vastness, the difficulty of the terrain and the sheer lack of manpower. GPS use, preferably in combination with the criteria used in Hagemeijer and Blair (1997), by the growing number of foreign visitors would already greatly improve our knowledge of the distribution of many species.

Underneath, a list of species and subspecies of which documentation is either lacking or, at least to my opinion, not adequately substantiated given the standards of record documentation currently expected. The list also includes records that have been atttributed to the Kazakh birdlist, while these actually refer to locations outside Kazakhstan.

King Eider Somateria spectabilis - record spring of 1851, at the Ural river near Kulagino, collected (Menzbier 1895) comment the skin is lost and hence the identification can not be verified.

Eider Somateria mollissima – record 10 April 1982, Soraydyn lake, Volga-Ural region, eight birds (Shevchenko et al 1993) comment there is no description or photograph supporting the identification.

Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus records ‘also observed in winter at lakes of southern steppes’ (Eversmann 1866) comment the statement is vague and clearly erroneous.

Black Scoter Melanitta nigra - all five records (Dolgushin 1960; Drobovzev & Vilkov 1997; Solomatin 1999) are undocumented, lacking a (good) description, a skin and photograph. Common Scoter should, therefore, be omitted from the Kazakh list.

Goosander Mergus merganser comatus – distribution breeds in the Tien Shan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) comment only the subspecies merganser breeds in Kazakhstan (Cramp and Simmons 1977; Berezovikov et al 2005).

Western Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha – vagrant (Kovshar 2012). The only record in Central Asia is a male collected at the Angren river in Uzbekistan in 1949 (Rustamov and Kovshar 2006). Probably, Kovhar refers to ‘an unusual dark Mallard with a dark crown and back’ shot in the Balkash region, in which case a feral Mallard could not be excluded (Editors 2006).

Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar subpallidadistribution according to Gavrilov and Gavrilov (2005), the subspecies subpallida occurs in the Kyzylkum desert and in adjoining parts of southern Kazakhstan. However, there is no documentation to support this statement. The breeding distribution of this taxon lies in central Uzbekistan, south to Tadjikistan (del Hoyo et al 1994; Howard and Moore 2003).

See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis – vagrant (Kuzmina 1962). The only record, south of the Sam sands at the Ustyurt plateau in June 1941, is undocumented. The record is also questioned by Karpov (2011).

White-billed Diver Gavia adamsii - record sine dato, Caspian Sea at Atyrau (Menzbier 1895) – comment there is no description supporting the identification.

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus - record sine dato (‘almost 150 years ago’), Caspian Sea (Dolgushin 1960). comment there is no description supporting the identification.

Northern Gannet Morus bassanus - record 17 May 1994, Petropavlovsk (Drobovzev and Vilkov 1997) comment There is no description or photograph supporting the identification.

African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus - record 25 December 1991, Zhabagly (Kolbintsev 1997) - comment the description (‘a totally white bird with black on the wingtips’) does not exclude an immature Eurasian Spoonbill. Moreover there is no photograph supporting the identification. Also the occurrence of a bird of wild origin in Kazakhstan seems unlikely.

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina - records ‘vagrant’ in Mangghystau province, including Buzachi peninsula (Zaletaev 1968); 14 May 1965, Emba valley (Neruchev and Shiryaev 1983) - comment there are no descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Laggar Falcon Falco jugger - records 26 April 1878, Chinaz, collected; 11 August 1909, Karatau, collected (Zarudny 1911) - comment Chinaz is not situated in Kazakhstan but in Uzbekistan. The skin of the Karatau bird is lost and hence the identification can not be verified.

Common Crane Grus grus grus - distribution Breeds probably in the Volga-Ural region (Shevchenko et al 1993; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the breeding occurrence of the subspecies grus in Kazakhstan. Only the subspecies lilfordi occurs in Kazakhstan (Cramp and Simmons 1980).

Hooded Crane Grus monacharecord 7 June 1855, Atyrau (Dolgushin 1960); sine dato, Kurchum delta, Zaysan region (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there is no skin, description or photograph supporting the idenfications (Wassink and Oreel 2008).

White-naped Crane Grus vipiorecords late April 1909, Qyzylorda, five birds, one of them collected; 23 October 1913, Kamshlybash lake, collected (Dolgushin 1960) – comment there is no skin description or photograph supporting the identifications (Wassink and Oreel 2008).

Common Redshank Tringa totanus totanusdistribution breeds in and migrates through western Kazakhstan, east to the Emba valley (Dolgushin 1962; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment the subspecies totanus does not occur in Kazakhstan (Delaney et al 2009).

Vega Gull Larus vegae mongolicus - records 7 September 1999, east of Spiridonovka, Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region, adult bird (Heinicke and Koshkin 2001); 19 September 2003, Ters Asthibulak lake, two adult birds (Jansen 2003) - comment there are no descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota - records 21 August 1946, Kumbel mountain, Zailiyskiy Alatau, three birds; 2 August 1948, Kumbel mountain, Zailiyskiy Alatau; 2 August 1949, Kumbel mountain, Zailiyskiy Alatau (Dolgushin 1962); 25 April 1956, Elchin-Buyiryuk mountains, central Tien Shan, Almaty province, pair (Zhyrnov et al 1978; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there is no skin, description or photograph supporting the identification. The records  are already questioned by Dolgushin (1962) and Shukurov (1988).

European Scops Owl Otus scops scops - distribution breeds in the Ural valley, the Mugodzhary mountains and in Mangghystau province (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment only the subspecies pulchellus breeds in Kazakhstan (Cramp 1985).

Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo omissus - distribution occurs probably south of the Ustyurt desert (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no indications that omissus occurs in Kazakhstan.

Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata - record sine dato, Atyrau, collected (specimen retained at Atyrau biological station) - comment the bird’s origin is uncertain as the specimen is unlabelled.

Little Owl Athene noctua noctua – distribution breeds south to 49º N in the Volga-Ural region and the Ural valley, and east to the lower Ilek valley (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005). Record: late July 2001, Shortandy (Berezovikov and Kovalenko 2001) – comment only the subspecies indigena breeds in the mentioned areas (Cramp 1985). The Shortandy record probably refers to bactriana, taking into account the subspecies’ breeding ranges.

European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus unwini - distribution breeds in the deserts of southern Kazakhstan, xerophytic mountains and also the Talasskiy, Kirgizskiy and Zailiyskiy Alatau (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment according to Cleere and Nurney (1998) unwini does not occur in Kazakhstan. Furthermore, Berezovikov et al (2005) did not mention unwini for the Zailiyskiy Alatau. The supposed occurrence (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) is at least partly based on the variable (both in colour and size) subspecies sarudnyi (Cleere and Nurney 1998).

European Green Woodpecker Picus viridisrecord 26 May 1988, adult, north of Karaozek, Syrdarya valley (Koblik 2012) – comment the record is insufficiently documented and, therefore, omitted.

Northern Grey Shrike Lanius borealis mollis – distribution breeds in the southern Altai (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence in Kazakhstan. A skin, retained in the collection of the Natural History Museum, Tring, has been collected at Korogol lake. This location lies not in Kazakhstan.

Eurasian Magpie Pica pica pica – distribution breeds probably in the Volga-Ural region (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment only the subspecies bactriana breeds in Kazakhstan (Cramp et al 1994). There are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence of the subspecies pica in Kazakhstan.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus coatsidistribution probably breeds in the Altai (Scherbakov 1974; Berezovikov 1989) and also occurs in winter (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment The subspecies regulus occurs as far east as the Tomsk region, where it intergrades with coatsi (Cramp 1992). It is, therefore, unlikely that the latter breeds in Kazakhstan. Coatsi and intergrades could occur in Kazakhstan in winter, but this still has to be documented.

Eurasian Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus pendulinus - distribution during migration probably in western Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment the subspecies pendulinus does not occur in Kazakhstan (Cramp and Perrins 1993). Also, there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence in Kazakhstan.

Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus cyanus - distribution in winter probably in western Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no indications that the subspecies cyanus occurs in Kazakhstan.

Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus – record 9 August 1882, Narynkol, Tien Shan, collected - comment the skin (retained at the Zoological Institute of Almaty) has been wrongly labelled and is probably not from Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005).

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica gutturalis and tytleri comment re-examination of the records and skins revealed that there are no acceptable records (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005).

Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum lagopodum - records (both at Chokpak pass, South Kazakhstan province) 30 September 1984, juvenile male, trapped; 19 September 1987, juvenile male, trapped (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus - distribution rare migrant in the foothills and mountains of eastern and south-eastern Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence in Kazakhstan. On the contrary, an  alleged Asian House Martin trapped and photographed at Chokpak pass on 15 September 2003 is a Common House Martin D urbicum.

Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis – After a revision of all records known from Kazakhstan no records remain acceptable. Comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications. For details see ID.

Two-barred Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus - records 16 May 1947, Mangghystau province, collected (Dolgushin 1948); repeatedly, south-eastern Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Brooks’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus subviridis - records sine dato, Orenburg, collected; 12 September 1899, Zharkent, collected (Kovshar 1972; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment There is no skin, description or photograph supporting the identification of the Zharkent bird. Orenburg lies not in Kazakhstan but in Russia.

Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus – records 19 November 1848, Kapal, Zhungarskiy Alatau, collected; 22 September 1857, middle Emba valley, collected; September 1925, Chu valley, collected (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005); 10 May 2005, Syrdarya valley, trapped; 3 October 2005, Chokpak pass, trapped (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Ménétriés’s Warbler Sylvia mystacea mystacea – record 21 April 2009, northeastern Caspian Sea (Kovshar 2009). The photos do not exclude subspecies turcmenica.

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca curruca - distribution migrates through Kazakhstan comment Olsson et al (2013) found that Blyth’s Lesser Whitethroat S althaea blythi occurs as far west as the Komi region (west of the Ural mountains). That makes it unlikely that Lesser Whitethroat migrates through Kazakhstan. Therefore, the subspecies curruca has been removed from the systematic list of Kazakhstan.

Desert Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca minuladistribution breeds in and migrates through southern parts of Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005; Wassink and Oreel 2007) comment a study on the taxonomy and phylogeny of Lesser Whitethroat has revealed that Desert Lesser Whitethroat does not occur in Kazakhstan (Olsson et al 2013). All breeding birds in roughly the southern half of Kazakhstan (outside the mountains) belong to Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia althaea halimodendri.

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin borin - distribution breeds in western Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment only the subspecies woodwardi breeds in Kazakhstan. Also migrants belong to this subspecies. However intergrades originating from the contact zone between borin and woodwardi (Cramp 1992) might occur in Kazakhstan.

Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolatarecords 19 September 1892, Semirechye region, Almaty province; 22 April 1900, Zharkent, Almaty province, collected; 7 August 1952, western Lake Balkhash, Zhambyl province (Dolgushin 1972); 7 September 2002, Chokpak pass, South Kazakhstan province, trapped (Gavrilov et al 2002); 3 June 2003, Astana region, Aqmola province, singing bird (Dubois et al 2003); 16 May 2007, Priirtyshkoe, Pavlodar province, singing bird (Kamp 2007) - comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola – records sine dato, Gogolskiy, lower Ural valley (Bostanzhoglo 1911); 21-22 May 2007, Iskrinskie pine forest, three pairs (of which three singing males) (Sklyarenko et al 2008) – comment there are no skins, descriptions, photos or soundrecordings supporting the identification. Furthermore, Aquatic Warblers do not occur in pairs (Lars Lachmann/Birslife Aquatic Warbler Conservation Team in litt).

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea europaea - records 21 September 1949, Ural valley; 18 October 1956, Ural valley (Dubinin and Toropanova 1956; Gavrilov et al 1968); February 1966, Taraz, collected; January 1991, Betagach forest, Naurzum nature reserve (Bragin and Bragina 2002); 25 October 2002, Korgalzhyn nature reserve (Koshkin 2002) – comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications. The occurrence of the almost non-migratory subspecies europaea so far east of the breeding range seems unlikely. All records are likely to refer to the subspecies asiatica.

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes subpallidus - record 20 March 1963, Sakakuduk, Mangghystau peninsula, two birds, collected (Mitropolskiy 1965, 2007; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there is no skin, description or photograph supporting the identification. Also the record seems unlikely on geographical grounds. The nearest breeding areas of subpallidus are situated in Afghanistan, at least 1,300 km south-east of the Mangghystau peninsula. Furthermore, the subspecies troglodytes is now known to occur in the Ural valley, south to Mangghystau province in winter (Belyalov 2008; Kovshar and Karpov 2009; Wassink 2009). The record is therefore regarded as referring to the subspecies troglodytes.

Caucasian Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros ochruros – record 19 October 1962, Mangghystau peninsula, collected – comment on basis of the description, the subspecies gibraltariensis, now known to be a rare but regular passage migrant and winter visitor at the Mangghystau coast, can not be safely excluded (Wassink 2011).

Hodgson’s Bushchat Saxicola insignis - records sine dato, Zaysan region, collected (Pleske 1889); rare breeding migrant in the mountains at Zaysan lake (Khakhlov 1928) – comment the label of the skin of the Zaysan region bird (retained at the Zoological Institute of Leningrad, Russia) is not the original one, consequently the skin’s origin is uncertain. Khakhlov’s statement (1928) is based on the undated observation of only one pair and there is no description supporting the identification.

Rusty-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda - records 4 August 1933, Bala-Baldabrek canyon (Shulpin 1961; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005); 27 June 1963, Bala-Baldabrek canyon (Dolgushin 1970; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there are no descriptions or photographs supporting the identifications.

European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca hypoleuca – distribution occurs in the Volga-Ural region, the Ural valley and in Mangghystau province (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment most populations of European Pied Flycatcher have a marked westerly component in the first stage of the autumn migration. This also applies to birds of the nearby southern Urals as demonstrated by ringing recoveries on the Iberian peninsula (Cramp and Perrins 1993). It seems therefore unlikely that pure hypoleuca migrate through Kazakhstan. However, intergrades originating from the contact zone between hypoleuca and sibirica (Svensson 1992) might occur in Kazakhstan.

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris erythropygia - distribution occurs probably in the Altai (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there are no indications that erythropygia occurs in the Altai.

Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi – records sine dato, Chinaz and Tashkent, several birds, collected (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005); 22 September 1999, Tengiz lake, Korgalzhyn nature reserve (Koshkin 2002, 2003) - comment There is no description or photograph supporting the identification of the Tengiz lake bird. The record is, therefore, omitted. The records (sine dato) of several birds collected at Chinaz and Tashkent (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) are wrongly attributed to the Kazakh birdlist. These locations lie in Uzbekistan.

Twite Linaria  flavirostris altaica – distribution breeds probably in the southern Altai (Berezovikov 1989; Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment only the subspecies korejevi breeds in the Kazakh Altai (Clement et al 1993).

Arctic Redpoll Acanthis hornemanni exilipesrecords 4 December 1870, Almaty, Almaty province; Upper Ural valley, February–March 1922 and on 22 October 1925 (Dolgushin 1974) – comment there are no skins, descriptions or photograph supporting the identification. The records are, therefore, rejected.

Asian Rosyfinch Leucosticte arctoa brunneonucharecord 12 December 1926, Semey, East Kazakhstan province, collected (Dolgushin 1974) – comment the skin is lost and hence the identification cannot be verified. It seems unlikely that this taxon occurs in Kazakhstan, taking in account its breeding and wintering range (north-eastern Siberia and East Asia, respectively; Clement et al 1999).

Common Rosefinch Erythrina erythrina grebnitzkii - distribution can be observed during migration (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment it seems unlikely that grebnitzkii occurs in Kazakhstan, taking into account its breeding range (Kamchatka, Sea of Ochotsk shores south to Amurland and in Manchuria; Cramp and Perrins 1994). There are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence in Kazakhstan.

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator kamtchatsensis – distribution breeds in the Altai and has been occasionally recorded at Qaraghandy and Almaty (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment it is unlikely that the subspecies kamchatsensis occurs in Kazakhstan, since this subspecies breeds in far eastern Siberia (Cramp and Perrins 1994; Clement et al 1999).

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala – records 6 April 1912, Tashkent, collected; 25 October 1913, Tashkent, collected; winter in early 20th century, Zaysan region (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) - comment there is no skin, description or photograph supporting the identification of the Zaysan region bird. Tashkent lies not in Kazakhstan but in Uzbekistan.

Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus schoeniclus - distribution common passage migrant and winter visitor (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment there are no skins, descriptions or photographs supporting the occurrence in Kazakhstan.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra calandra – distribution breeding record on the Mangghystau peninsula. Occasionally in western Kazakhstan (Gavrilov and Gavrilov 2005) – comment only the subspecies buturlini occurs in Kazakhstan (Cramp and Perrins 1994).

I am thankful to the following persons for the various ways in which they contributed to this site: Thomas Aarvak, Ross Ahmed, Per Alström, Ruud Altenburg, Michael Westerbjerg Andersen, David Anderson, Vladimir Arkhipov, Svetlana Ashby, Vaughan Ashby, Mark Ashcroft, Raffael Ayé, Alain Baccaert, Jury Bakur, Dave Balmer, Richard Bayldon, Yevgeny Belousov, Rob van Bemmelen, Phil Benstead, Nikolai Berezovikov, Arnoud van den Berg, Jos van den Berg, Max Berlijn, Ruud van Beusekom, Feodor Bidashko, Lammert Bies, Anders Blomdahl, Cecilia Bosman, Sander Bot, Colin Bradshaw, Thomas Brandt, Axel Bräunlich, Andreas Buchheim, Simon Busuttil, Paul Cardy, Jean-Marc Chavatte (National Avian Research Center of Abu Dhabi-International Fund for Houbara Conservation), Nikita Chernetsov (Russian Academy of Science, Rybachy, Russia), Peter Clement, Andrea Corso, Fergus Crystal, Miguel Demeulmeester, Pauli Dernjatin, Lieven DeSchampelaere, Symen Deuzeman, Harvey van Diek, René van Dijk, Andrew Dixon, Max Dornbusch, Jérôme Dubos, Hugues Dufourny, Nils van Duivendijk, Marc Duquet, Martin Eccles, Toni Eskelin, Klaus Fabian, Matthias Fanck, David Farrow, Wouter Faveyts, Chris du Feu (EURING Data Bank), Thijs Fijen, Dick Forsman, Patrick Franke, Thord Fransson, Chris Gardner, Christophe Gouraud (NARC-IFHC), Ian Green, Dick Groenendijk, Kari Haataja, Jesper Hornskov, Geert Groot Koerkamp, Hein van Grouw (Natural History Museum, Tring, U.K.), Ulrich Hammer, Margaret Hart (American Museum of Natural History, Cambridge, U.S.A.), Thomas Heinicke, Jesper Hornskov, Bart Huijzers, Timur Iskakov, Justin Jansen, Henk van der Jeugd (Dutch Centre for Avian Migration and Demography), Alan Johnston, Jacky Judas (NARC-IFHC), Risto Juvaste, Johannes Kamp, Igor Karyakin, Roman Kashkarov (Institute of Zoology, Tashkent, Uzbekistan), Todd Katzner, Peter Kennerly, Ulrike Knappen-von den Driesch, Peter de Knijff, Peter Köhler, Vladimir Kolbintsev, Alexei Koshkin, Maxim Koshkin, Victoria Kovshar, Arnold van Krefeld, Lars Lachmann,  Peter Lack (British Trust for Ornithology), Thomas Lameris, Albert Lastukhin, Lukasz Lawicki, Paul Leader, Harald Legge, Arnaud Le Neve (NARC-IFHC), Antero Lindholm, Tom Lindroos, Bob Loos, Vladimir Loskot (Department of Ornithology, Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Science, Saint Petersburg, Russia), Misha Markovets, Alexander Matyukin, Edith Mayer, Bernd Meyburg, Nial Moores, Mars Muusse, Jyrki Normaja, Frank Neijts, Georges Olioso, Jonathan Ollivier (NARC-IFHC), Gerald Oreel, Patrick Palmen, Gabor Papp (NARC-IFHC), Cliff Peterson, Jarmo Pirhonen, René Pop, Richard Porter, Robert Prys-Jones, Petro Pynnönen, Philip Redman, Debby Reynolds, Jozef Ridzon, Magnus Robb, Frank de Roder, Jochen Roeder, Svend Rønnest, Steve Rooke, Françoise Rose (NARC-IFHC), Kees Roselaar, Paul Roth, Steffen Roth, Tobias Roth, Albert Salemgareev, George Sangster, Holger Schielzeth, Karl Schulze-Hagen, Manuel Schweizer, Jim Scott, Jevgeni Shergalin, Allard Stapel, Jan Hein van Steenis, Paul Sweet (AMNH), Jochen Tamm, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ulrich Tigges, Petteri Tolvanen, Jeremiah Trimble (AMNH), Magnus Ullman, Ruslan Urazaliyev, Machiel Valkenburg, Andrey Villaeiev (NARC-IFHC), Mats Waern, Brian Watmough, Jo Weiss, Michael Westerbjerg Andersen, Jonathan Wilding, Xeniya Yakhnovets and others.