Afghanistan  – Armenia  – Azerbaijan  – Bahrain  – Cyprus  – Egypt  – Georgia  – Iran  – Iraq  – Israel  – Jordan  – Kazakhstan  – Kuwait  – Kyrgyzstan  – Lebanon  – Oman  – Qatar  – Saudi Arabia  – South West Russia  – Syria  – Tajikistan  – Türkiye  – Turkmenistan  – United Arab Emirates  – Uzbekistan  – Yemen 

Asian Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguineus ©A Al-Sirhan

Capital: Kabul
Area: 652,864 km2
BirdLife International partner: None. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been registered in Afghanistan since 2006 and has a fully-staffed national programme:
Total number of bird species: 449
Globally threatened bird species: 18 
Country endemics: Afghan Snowfinch (near endemic)
Important bird and biodiversity areas: 15 IBAs with a total area of 39,182 km2
Rare birds committee: There is currently no rare birds committee in Afghanistan.


Himalayan Snowcock, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Large-billed Reed Warbler, Afghan Snowfinch, Asian Crimson-winged Finch, Sinai Rosefinch

Ornithological interest:

Afghanistan is a land-locked country with few wetlands but it has a wide range of biomes and associated bird communities. At lower elevations, Afghan Scrub Sparrow and the Greater Hoopoe-Lark reside in the southern Saharo-Sindian desert areas, and a variety of lark and wheatear species, and large numbers of wintering Macqueen’s Bustards, inhabit the Eurasian deserts and sub-deserts in the north. The Irano-Turanian mountains in the centre of the country have the highest breeding colony of Greater Flamingos in the world (in Dasht-e Nawar), and birders can also find Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier and Afghan Snowfinch here. The Eurasian high mountains in the north and northeast host an avifauna typical of the western Himalayan-Tibetan highlands. Species reaching into Wakhan National Park are at their westernmost distributions and include Ibisbill, Bar-headed Goose, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Snow Pigeon and Tibetan Snowcock. Finally, the temperate to sub-tropical Sino-Himalayan forests in the east have the richest bird diversity in the country. Here the avifauna is influenced by species from the Indian Himalayan Region such as Himalayan Monal, Koklass Pheasant, Black-headed Jay and Kashmir Nuthatch.

Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Afghan Snowfinch, Asian Crimson-winged Finch and Sinai Rosefinch can all be seen in spring and summer in the Bamyan Plateau and Band-e Amir protected areas. These are in Bamyan Province, one of the most secure regions in Afghanistan. Large-billed Reed Warbler, a highland species in the westernmost areas of its distribution, and many species migrating across the Central Asian Highlands can be found in Wakhan National Park.

Best times to visit:

More than half of Afghanistan lies over 1,500 metres above sea level and infrastructure is limited so it is difficult to drive across most of the country during winter. April to June is the best time to visit when mountain passes are generally more accessible and the temperature at lower elevations is still pleasant. April is good for migration along the Central Asian Flyway and one can witness spectacular flocks of birds such as Demoiselle Cranes. May to June is the appropriate time to view breeding species such as Afghan Snowfinch, Sinai Rosefinch, Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Large-billed Reed Warbler (which can be very difficult to distinguish from Blyth’s Reed Warbler without hearing the song). Unfortunately, Afghanistan remains volatile, and security is problematic. Any visit outside of the relatively safe areas of the Band-e Amir and Wakhan National Parks should be carefully planned. Travellers need to be fully informed of current security situations and seek up-to-date local knowledge of the possible presence of landmines.

Essential reading

Ayé R, Schweizer M & Roth T (2012) Birds of Central Asia, Christopher Helm.

Rasmussen P C & Anderton J C (2012) Birds of South Asia, The Ripley Guide (two volumes), Lynx Edicions.

Trip report links:

June-September 2002

May-Sept 2011                                                            

2007, 2009/10, 2012 – Operation HERRICK, Helmand Province


Stephane Ostrowski