Ural Expeditions &smp; Tours

Birdwatching tours in Altai

Systematic List       Birds

The taxonomy is largely taken from Professor Edward Gavrilovs summary of status and distribution to be found in the Guide to the Birds of the Kazakhstan Republic published in 2000. A few common names and subspecies details are taken from MacKinnon and Phillippss Birds of China also published in 2000.

To give an idea of frequency of sightings we give a figure at the end of the comments section which indicates the number of days out of 14 on which a species was seen 6/14 means that a species was noted on 6 days out of 14. Leader only records are indicated by the leaders initials IG = Ian Green, VK = Vladimir Kolbintsev.

Black-throated Diver

Gavia arctica

One of the most surprising finds of the trip was an adult in breeding plumage on Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

Only seen around Lake Zaysan where seen on 3 days


Phalacrocorax carbo

1 at first Zaysan ferry crossing and 3 at the second

Dalmatian Pelican

Pelecanus crispus

1 noted at the first Zaysan ferry crossing and then up to a maximum of 8 by the Zaysan shore camp. 3/14

Great White Egret

Egretta alba

2 near Zaysan shore camp

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

1 at Frankfurt Arport en route!

Black Stork

Ciconia nigra

Singles noted daily at Markakol. 5/14

Ruddy Shelduck 

Tadorna ferruginea

Scattered. 6/14


Anas strepera

A few at both Zaysan Lake and at Markakol. 4/14


Anas penelope

A few at both Zaysan Lake and at Markakol. Max daily count 6. 5/14


Anas platyrhynchos

Scarce. 2/14


Anas acuta

A few at Zaysan Lake. Max daily counts 10+. 4/14


Anas querquedula

7 at Lake Zaysan and a male at Markakol. 2/14


Anas clypeata     

Quite common at Lake Zaysan. A male at Markakol. 4/14

Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina

Max count of 6 at Lake Zaysan. 2/14

Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

Quite common on Markakol and a few on both lakes at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 5/14


Aythya ferina

3 at Lake Zaysan and c.12 at Markakol. 2/14


Clangula bucephala

Very common at Markakol where counts of  500+! Also 2+ at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 4/14

Velvet Scoter

Melanitta deglandi

50+ on the upper lake and 15+ on the lower lake at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi constituted quite a sizeable breeding colony! 2/14

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

7+ females and immatures on Markakol

Black Kite

Milvus migrans

Widespread and abundant. 13/14

Black Vulture

Aegypius monachus

1 over the Burkhat Pass. 6 by the dead horse on first pass and 4+ on the second! 3/14

Griffon Vulture

Gyps fulvus

A rare bird in the Altai. 3 birds by the dead horse on the first pass and 1 on the second. 2/14

Montagus Harrier

Circus pygargus

Scattered. 5/14

Hen Harrier

Circus cyaneus

Noted almost daily in the Markakol, Burkhat and Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi areas. 7/14


Accipiter gentilis

Fabulous views of a female at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi


Accipiter nisus

Scattered singles. 4/14

Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo                         

vulpinus race? Noted most days. Max daily count 4. 10/14

Long-legged Buzzard

Buteo rufinus

A total of 3 in the Zaysan Desert. 2/14

Upland Buzzard

Buteo hemilasius

10+ a day in the Zaysan desert area, mostly between the camp site and Kiin Kerish Canyon. Also 2 seen from the Burkhat Pass. 4/14

Steppe Eagle

Aquila nipalensis              

2 in the Kalbinskiy Hills, 3+ in the Zaysan Desert and 1 over the Burkhat Pass. 3/14

Imperial Eagle

Aquila heliaca

3 in the Kalbinskiy Hills, 2 between the Burkhat Pass and Kamenka Bee Farm, 2 en route to Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi and 2 at the dead horse. 4/14

White-tailed Eagle

Haliaeetus albicilla

Max daily count along the shore by Zaysan Camp was 3! 3/14

Lesser Kestrel

Falco naumanni

4+ on the hill above the spring at Zaysan. May have been missed elsewhere

Common Kestrel 

Falco tinnunculus

Widespread except in Markakol area. 6/14


Falco subbuteo

Scattered. 6/14


Falco cherrug

1 in the Zaysan Desert near Kiin Kerish


Lagopus mutus

1 seen and plenty of signs noted on the Burkhat Pass

Black Grouse

Tetrao tetrix

A female seen on the dry hill north of Markakol. Feathers and signs noted in variety of areas at Markakol.


Tetrao urogallus

A female with several young seen at very close range a little south of Markakol


Tetrastes bonasia

2 on the road down from the Burkhat Pass


Coturnix coturnix

Head pretty much everywhere and seen occasionally too. 10/14


Crex crex

Heard and seen (VK) in Cim Bulak, Almaty. Heard in the Kalbinskiy Hills where also seen (IG) and also around Markakol. 5/14


Fulica atra

1 at Zaysan Camp

Demoiselle Crane

Anthropoides virgo

Max count of 9 on the shores of Lake Zaysan including a foot tall youngster who walked off into the desert! Also 2 near Alexeevka and 2 en route to Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 3/14

Houbara Bustard

Chlamydotis undulata

Should probably now be called MacQueens Bustard. Singles noted twice near the Zaysan camp one by Yuri, then a male by several of us


Haematopus ostralegus

Max of 2 along shores of Lake Zaysan. 2/14

Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus

Scattered along shores of Lake Zaysan. 3/14

Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius

Common around Zaysan and 1 in the Bukhtarma Valley. 4/14

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus

A few by Zaysan Camp. 2/14


Vanellus vanellus

Scattered along Zaysans shore. 3/14

Common Snipe    

Gallinago gallinago

1 in the Kalbinskiy Hills


Numenius phaeopus

5+ on Zaysans shore


Numenius arquata

1 on Zaysans shore

Common Redshank

Tringa totanus

Common along Zaysans shore. 3/14

Green Sandpiper 

Tringa ochropus

1 at Markakol (OM)

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

Markakol, Bukhtarma River and Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. Nest with 4 eggs found. 5/14

Great Black-headed Gull

Larus ichthyaetus

Count of 56+ birds by the camp was the most at Lake Zaysan.  Only 1 on Markakol. 3/14

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus               

Scattered around Zaysan. 4/14

Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

Scattered around Zaysan. 4/14 most seemed to be of the barabensis race?

Gull-billed Tern

Gelochelidon nilotica

Noted at Lake Zaysan. 2/14

Caspian Tern

Sterna caspia

28 by the Zaysan Camp

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo

Noted near most areas of water. 5/14

Little Tern

Sterna albifrons

Quite common along Zaysans shores. 3./14

White-winged Black Tern

Chlidonias leucopterus

Very common by the Zaysan Camp. 3/14

Pallass Sandgrouse

Syrrhaptes paradoxus

Max daily count of about 30 in the Zaysan Desert commonest on gravel plains near the spring. Nest found with eggs at Kiin Kerish. 3/14

Rock Dove

Columba livia

Widespread. 7/14

Rufous Turtle Dove

Streptopelia orientalis

Widespread. 11/14

Oriental Cuckoo

Cuculus saturatus

Heard daily at Markakol and on the north-facing slopes below the Burkhat Pass. Seen only once at the first bridge across the Kara Kaba River at the foot of the Austrian Road. 6/14


Cuculus canorus

Widespread and sometimes very common. Common in same areas as above species too. 12/14

Eagle Owl

Bubo bubo

Pellets found in the Kiin Kerish Canyon, Zaysan Desert


Caprimulgus europaeus

1 at the camp by the shore of Lake Zaysan

Common Swift

Apus apus

Noted in Cim Bulak, Almaty and common at the Kiin Kerish canyon, Zaysan Desert. 2/14

Pacific Swift

Apus pacificus

Quite common at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 2/14

European Bee-eater

Merops apiaster

3+ noted near Alexeevka and 7+ in the Bukhtarma Valley. 2/14


Coracias garrulus

2 near Alexeevka


Upupa epops

Scattered. 6/14


Jynx torquilla

3 on fenceposts near the dead horse en route from Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Picus canus

2 seen very well on way up to pass on north side of Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi

Black Woodpecker

Dryocopus martius

1 seen on the way up to the Cold Pass at Markakol and 1 on route down from the Burkhat Pass. 2/14

Northern Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides tridactylus

A female seen well on the Cold Pass above Markakol and almost certainly another seen in pines across the lake at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi.

White-backed Woodpecker

Dendrocopus leucotus

1 seen in pines across the lake at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi

Calandra Lark

Melanocorypha calandra

1 seen near Zaysan Camp probably passed a good number more

Black Lark

Melanocorypha yeltoniensis

One of the commonest birds in the Zaysan Desert with daily counts of 50+. Especially common just away from Zaysans shore and even seen displaying above the wetland around Zaysan Camp! 3/14

White-winged Lark

Melanocorypha leucoptera

3+ (probably 4 birds) seen 200m from Zaysans shore about 3km from our camp. According to Yuri there are only two previous records from the area. These birds appeared to represent two pairs probably on territory

Short-toed Lark

Calandrella brachydactyla

1+ in the Zaysan Desert

Asian Short-toed Lark

Calandrella cheelensis

Scattered in the drier gravelly parts of Zaysan. Drives through the desert put up hundreds of small larks that were not identified specifically. 3/14

Oriental Skylark  

Alauda gulgula

Surprisingly seemed to one of the most abundant larks in the Zaysan Desert! 2/14


Alauda arvensis

Widespread (including Zaysan). 8/14


Eremophila alpestris

Scattered in the Zaysan Desert! 2/14

Sand Martin

Riparia riparia

Common around Lake Zaysan. 5/14


Hirundo rustica

Widespread. 14/14

House Martin

Delichon urbica

Only seen on one day above Markakol

Tawny Pipit

Anthus campestris

Scattered in drier habitats. 6/14

Tree Pipit

Anthus trivialis

Common around Markakol, Burkhat Pass and Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. Nest with eggs found. 8/14

Water Pipit

Anthus spinoletta              

Common on the Burkhat Pass and above Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. Nest with eggs found. 3/14

Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava

Several of the beema race noted at Zaysan along with a few feldegg but most in this area seemed to be the race melanogrisea. 5/14

Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

Common in the hills. 11/14

Masked Wagtail 

Motacilla personata

Widespread. 12/14

Himalayan (Altai) Accentor

Prunella himalayana

2 on boulder screes above the pass north of Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi (IG)

Black-throated Accentor

Prunella atrogularis

1 at Tyuk-su, Cim Bulak, Almaty. 1 near upper limit of Siberian Pine forest on north side of the Burhkat Pass and 1 on way up pass on the north side of Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi (IG). 3/14


Luscinia megarhynchos

Heard in a few localities. 3/14


Luscinia svecica

Common on the Burkhat Pass and a few at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 4/14

Siberian Rubythroat

Luscinia calliope

Max of 2 seen on each visit to the Burkhat Pass including a couple of fine males. Also noted on both days at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi. 4/14

Common Redstart

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Widespread and common in wooded areas of the hills. 6/14

Eversmanns Redstart

Phoenicurus erythronotus

Males seen on the Burkhat Pass (IG) and in boulder scree amid Siberian Pines across the lake at Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi (IG). 2/14


Saxicola torquata


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