AZERBAIJAN

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European Roller Coracias garrulus perched a stick
European Roller Coracias garrulus. Photo: A Al-Sirhan


Updated: 23/12/2020
Capital: Baku
Area: 86,600 km2
BirdLife International partner: Azerbaijan Ornithological Society (AOS)
Total number of bird species: 410
Globally threatened bird species: 19
Country endemics: 0
Important bird and biodiversity areas: 53 IBAs with a total area of 8,332 km2
Rare birds committee: There is currently no rare birds committee in Azerbaijan.
Local contact email: birdwatchingazerbaijan@gmail.com

Specialities:

Caucasian Grouse, Caucasian and Caspian Snowcocks, See-see Partridge, Black Francolin, Shikra, Grey-headed Swamphen, White-tailed Lapwing, Caspian Tit, Mountain Chiffchaff, Green Warbler, Ménétries’s Warbler, Western and Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Wallcreeper, White-throated Robin, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Persian Wheatear, Pale Rockfinch, Radde’s Accentor, Trumpeter and Mongolian Finches, Great Rosefinch, Desert Finch, (Caucasian) Twite, Red-fronted Serin, Grey-necked Bunting

Ornithological interest:

Azerbaijan is a small country, at the eastern border of the Western Palearctic, which is mainly influenced by the Caucasian mountain ranges and the Caspian Sea. It has a broad range of climate zones; from semi-deserts, steppes and huge coastal wetlands in the lowlands, through subtropical forests and dry, rocky badlands, to high mountains in the Lesser and Greater Caucasus. These habitats host around 250 breeding bird species. Furthermore, the Greater Caucasus and Caspian Sea form natural borders on the West Asia-East Africa Flyway which funnel millions of migrating birds through a narrow coastal plain – the Besh Barmag bottleneck.

Azerbaijan is an excellent country to see a number of regional specialties including Caucasian endemics and several Anatolian species. It is also an exciting destination to enjoy bird migration. Migrating birds can easily be observed at the bottleneck area of Besh Barmag Mountain where diurnal movements often takes place at eye level. In both spring and autumn, millions of birds of numerous species pass through this outstanding hotspot. Resting migrants, mainly waterbirds, can be seen along the coast and in the wide lagoons of the Kura Delta and Kizil Agach.

Endemic mountain species are more easily seen in the eastern Greater Caucasus around the villages of Khinalik and Laza. At the southern borders of the Western Palearctic, breeding specialities include Shikra and Caspian Tit which can be seen around Masalli and Lerik respectively. A distinctively different species composition is found in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic where Radde’s Accentor, Persian Wheatear and See-see Partridge are common.

Best times to visit:

May is perhaps the best time to see Azerbaijan’s breeding birds along with some of the later spring migrants. Autumn migration starts in July with the first waders arriving from the north. These are followed by terns, thousands of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, ducks, herons, pelicans and a good number of raptor species. Highlights of later autumn migration (November and December) are large numbers of finches and larks and an impressive passage of Little Bustards. In winter, the vast steppes are home to tens of thousands of Little Bustards and the wetlands hold thousands of wintering waterbirds.

Essential reading:

Schmidt S, Gauger K & Agayeva N (2008) Birdwatching in Azerbaijan, Michael Succow Foundation, Greifswald, Germany.

Patrikeev M (2004) The Birds of Azerbaijan, Pensoft Publishers.

Svensson L, Mullarney K, Zetterström D, Grant P (2010) Collins Bird Guide, HarperCollins, UK.

A useful source of up-to-date information is the Birding Azerbaijan website which includes a blog:

https://birdingazerbaijan.org/. (Some of the trip reports from the blog are detailed in the links below but there are more.)

There is also a Facebook page (@BirdingAze): https://www.facebook.com/BirdingAze/

Trip report links:

12-19 April 2012
3-11 October 2013
5-13 May 2014
25-30 October 2015
6-14 May 2016
15-20 September 2016 – Besh Barmag
20-25 April 2017 – Bird Camp Besh Barmag
28 May-9 June 2018
20-28 May 2018
September 2018 – Besh Barmag
Early October 2018 – Besh Barmag
Late October-early November 2018 – Besh Barmag
Late November 2018 – Besh Barmag
Late October-early November 2019 – Besh Barmag
6-23 November 2019
3-16 December 2019 – Azerbaijan and Georgia

Compilers:

Zülfü Ferecli, Pia Fetting, Kai Gauger, Tomas Haraldsson