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Day trips

From Almaty, Bishkek or Astana, get a feel for the birds of Central Asia

We are lucky that our guides are based in the region and thus available to lead trips around their home towns. So, if you happen to be in any of these cities, treat yourself to a great day of birding in Central Asia! See our suggestions below.

When: Anytime.

Duration: One-day or two-day trips. Almaty and Bishkek are particularly well located with two very different landscapes right on their doorsteps (mountains and steppe), so there is plenty to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Arrival and departure: These trips assume that you are already in country.

Costs: TBD

What is included: We provide everything you will need for the day: An English-speaking birding guide, transportation (which varies according to group size) and food.

And what is not: These are day trips, so you are responsible for your accommodation and for getting to the country in the first place. Personal expenses (souvenirs, phone calls, etc.) and alcoholic beverages are also not included. You are also required to ensure that you have full travel and medical insurance for this trip; our tours are often remote and off-road with medical facilities few and far between. We will always do our best to help with any accident or incident but we are not responsibility for theft of personal belongings or personal injury.


Nestled in the Ili Ala-Too mountain range, Almaty is a city on the edge of two fascinating landscapes: mountains and steppe, with each hosting very distinct species of birds. Travelling south from Almaty the terrain quickly steepens leading us to lush forested valleys. Most of the birding has to be done on foot, with a variety of hikes to suit different physical capacities. We can target high-altitude species such as Himalayan snowcock, Altai and brown accentor, Güldenstadt’s redstart and plain mountain-finch, with both red-billed and Alpine chough present. By sticking to lesser and warmer altitudes, we should see red-mantled rosefinch, white-browed tit-warbler, Eversman’s and blue-capped redstart, sulphur-bellied, Hume’s and greenish warbler, Songar tit, red-fronted serin and the famous ibisbill. Lammergeier is a possibility.

Alternatively, to the north of Almaty the Sorbulak lake system is the most obvious destination. Probably Kazakhstan’s most diverse birding spot, it has something to show in all seasons, but is fantastic during both spring and autumn migration periods. Besides migrants and vagrants, it hosts colonies of Dalmatian and great wite pelican, supports large numbers of waterfowl (ferruginous duck amongst others) and waders, is used by raptors such as steppe and imperial eagle and has breeding white-headed duck nearby. With luck, and in the right season, little bustards can also be seen.


Similar to Almaty, Bishkek has easy access to mountains and steppe. The Ala-Archa national park encompasses stunning valleys with all our classic mid-altitude mountain species. While snowcocks can be difficult to see, except in April when they descend towards the valley floor, you should find plenty of white-throated and brown dipper, red-mantled rosefinch, white-browed tit-warbler, Eversmann’s and blue-capped redstart, sulphur-bellied, Hume’s and greenish warbler, red-fronted serin and maybe the famous ibisbill. Golden eagle, lammergeier and Himalayan griffon are almost always encountered. Ala-Archa is also probably the best place in the world to see and photograph rufous-naped tit, as the birds have become used to local residents on days out to the forest.

If you prefer water and steppe species, as series of ponds by the airport is a favourite destination for Bishkek’s birdwatching community. Anything can turn up; from migrating waders and passerines, nesting tern and pygmy cormorant, overwintering white-tailed eagle, Pallas gull and long-tailed rosefinch to the odd nesting collared pratincole. This trip can be extended to reach areas where little bustard breed, in season.


Reaching good birding areas from Astana requires more driving than from either Almaty or Bishkek, but you are rewarded by world-class species in large numbers. We’ll reach the Korgalzhyn area where grassy steppes are interspersed with numerous shallow lakes. It is a fascinating landscape that hosts many typical (and desirable) steppe species such as sociable Lapwing (the one and only!), greater flamingo (the northernmost colony in the world), black lark, white-winged lark, black-winged pratincole, Pallas’s gull, slender-billed gull, Caspian tern, demoiselle crane, steppe eagle, red-footed falcon and pallid harrier. One day will only give you a taste of this variety, but luckily it is also possible to stay in the area overnight if you have time.

English (UK)