Third International Scientific and Practical Conference “Eagles of the Palearctic: Study and Conservation”

Raptors Conservation. Suppl. 2. Proceedings of Conferences

Wintering Areas of the White-Tailed Eagle in Southern Kazakhstan

Chalikova E.S. (Institute of Zoology, Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Elena Chalikova
Recommended citation: Chalikova E.S. Wintering Areas of the White-Tailed Eagle in Southern Kazakhstan. – Raptors Conservation. 2023. S2: 58–61. DOI: 10.19074/1814-8654-2023-2-58-61 URL:

White-Tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a rare species with declining numbers listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan. In the Turkestan Region it is present during migration and wintering periods with the earliest sighting on September 10 (2018), and the latest on March 23 (2021) (Koksarai Reservoir, Gubin, 2020). Since 2003, wintering birds have been regularly observed on water bodies. Initially, counts were conducted in December–February, but starting from 2006 – in mid-January. The participants included S.N. Erokhov from 2003 to 2005, O.V. Belyalov in 2003 and 2004, F.F. Karpov in 2004 and 2006, A.V. Kovalenko from 2005 to 2014 (Kovalenko, 2015), S.A. Kravchenko in 2005 and 2006, B.M. Gubin from 2016 to 2018 (Gubin, 2020), and the author together with A.Zh. Abayev and M.A. Yaganin in 2014, 2020–2022.

The White-Tailed Eagle was regularly observed at the Shardara Reservoir (area 783 km2), constructed on the Syrdarya River. The number of wintering individuals here is variable and depends on the presence of snow cover and the extent of ice coverage. However, in recent years, a decrease in the species' population has been noted: from 2003 to 2016, an average of 69 individuals were recorded (15 in 2004 and 120 in 2003), while from 2017 to 2022 – 21 individuals (12 in 2017 and 29 in 2022). The distribution of the species within the reservoir is uneven. The main concentration is below the Shuarden Dam in Shuarden, where the water never freezes. The birds gather in groups on rocks along the riverbank, occasionally on the ice. On January 21, 2014, 16 individuals were recorded, 25 ind. on January 13, 2020, 23 ind. on January 17, 2021, and 17 ind. on January 21, 2022. Along the reservoir, the species was encountered less frequently and more often as individuals: on January 22, 2014, 22 individuals were observed, and on January 20, 2022, 12 were recorded. In January 2020 and 2021, the species was not observed due to fog and rain.

Other water bodies, smaller in area and shallower, often covered with ice, which limiting the number of overwintering birds. Along the road from Shuarden to the village of Bayir Kum, which runs along the Syrdarya River valley (usually frozen in January), the White-Tailed Eagle was recorded on February 13, 2006 (2 individuals), January 20, 2014, and January 16, 2018 (6 each), January 13, 2020 (4 inds), and January 17, 2021 (1 ind.). Further down the valley to the mouth of the Aris River, 9 birds were observed on November 11–12, 2021 (1, 2, 5, and 1), and 1 individual on March 9, 2016.

The Koksarai Regulator (area 467 km2), located to the right of the Syrdarya River channel, 160 km downstream from the Shardara Reservoir, contains the maximum amount of water in spring and summer, which is gradually drops throughout the summer and partially in autumn. In winter, only separate shallow bays remain that often freeze over. The reservoir is filled in January–February with the rise of water levels in the Syrdarya River. Winter counts were conducted in January from 2016 to 2022 (three individuals in 2021 and 44 in 2018, on average – 15 inds). Along with rising water levels and the beginning of spring migration, the number of birds increases: 9 inds on February 9–17 and 35 inds on March 16, 2019 (Gubin, 2020).

The Shoshkakol System consisting of 15 lakes occupies a salt-marsh lowland (area 535 km2), fed by the Bugun River, and located 40 km from the middle flow of the Syrdarya River. Since the lake shores are concealed with reeds and the lakes freeze over a full-scale winter bird count is not always possible. Nevertheless, from 7 to 15 (on average 11) White-tailed Eagles were recorded from 2004 to 2006, and from 3 to 10 (6) in 2016–2018.

The Bugun Reservoir is located above the Bugun River (area 65 km2) and often completely covered in ice in winter. When it freezes the birds migrate southward, resulting in the observation of 45 Whitetailed Eagles during 7 counts (2004, 2013, 2016–2018, 2020–2022) (from 1 to 18, on average 8).

The Badam Reservoir (area 4.75 km2) is situated in the foothills of the Karzhantau Mountains on the Badam River, which, unlike the previous reservoir, never freezes due to its flow. The White-Tailed Eagle was only recorded from 2015 to 2017 (from 1 to 6, on average 4), and an individual was spotted on December 22, 2021.

Along the Badam River waterfront in Shymkent (downstream), single individuals were encountered on January 19, 2014 (2 inds), December 13, 2020, February 18, October 20 and 29, December 18, 2022, January 15 and 26, 2023. On the city's sewage reservoir, located on the western outskirts of the city (area 2000 hectares), the species was recorded on January 14 and 18, February 26, December 24, 2020 (4, 3, 1, and 5 individuals, respectively), February 16, 2021 (2 ind.), February 16, 2022 (2 ind.), and February 6 and 27, 2023 (1 ind. and 2 ind.). A pair was spotted on January 14, 2020, at the Burzhar River weir.

Outside water bodies, single Whitetailed Eagles were recorded on migratory flights on January 13 near the village of Karabulak, on November 9 and 11, 2014, in the vicinity of Ryskulov Village, on January 22, 2016, near Shokpak-Baba Village, on February 12, 2019, near Aksukent Village, on February 14, 2015, January 25, November 8, 2020, December 17, 2022, and February 12, 2023, near Zhabagily Village1.