Country/Territory Armenia,Azerbaijan,Georgia,Iran, Islamic Republic of,Russia (European),Turkey
Area 170,000 km2
Altitude 1200 - 4000m
Priority high
Habitat loss major
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This mountainous EBA lies between the Black and Caspian Seas, extending from the southern Russian Federation, through Georgia and Armenia into north-west Iran, and including north-east Turkey and northern and western Azerbaijan. Several mountain ranges are included but the EBA is largely defined by the Greater Caucasus (reaching 5,600 m) and, to the south, the Lesser Caucasus (4,095 m). These mountains support a diverse variety of vegetation types including broadleaved and coniferous forests, montane steppe and woodlands, subalpine and alpine meadows and semi-desert vegetation.

Restricted-range species

The subalpine and alpine zones are used by all the restricted-range species. Forested habitats close to the treeline are important for Phylloscopus lorenzii, a species which is sometimes considered to be conspecific with the widespread Mountain Chiffchaff P. sindianus of south-west Asia; this view was followed (e.g.) by Sibley and Monroe (1990), but the taxon was subsequently given full species status in Sibley and Monroe (1993) and this treatment is followed here. P. lorenzii breeds in the western Greater Caucasus, most of the Lesser Caucasus and adjacent parts of north-east Turkey, and, in winter, disperses south as far as Iraq.

Species IUCN Category
Caucasian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus) LC
Caucasian Grouse (Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi) NT
(Phylloscopus lorenzii) NR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
AM008 Dsegh Armenia
AM009 Haghartsin Armenia
AM010 Mount Ara Armenia
AM017 Zangezoor Armenia
AM018 Meghri Armenia
GE001 Ritsa Georgia
GE002 Pskhu Georgia
GE003 Gumista Georgia
GE005 Kintrishi Georgia
GE006 Liakhvi Georgia
GE007 Eastern Caucasus Georgia
GE008 Meskheti Georgia
GE012 Svaneti Georgia
GE013 Racha Georgia
GE015 Adjara-Imereti Ridge Georgia
GE016 Shavsheti Ridge Georgia
GE019 Trialeti Ridge Georgia
GE021 Kazbegi Georgia
GE022 Khevsureti Georgia
GE023 Tusheti Georgia
GE024 Lagodekhi Georgia
GE032 Eastern Caucasus mountains Georgia
GE034 Meskheti Ridge Georgia
IR003 Arasbaran Protected Area Iran, Islamic Republic of
RU1163 Caucasus Biosphere Reserve Russia (European)
RU1167 Teberdinski Nature Reserve Russia (European)
RU1168 Kabardino-Balkarski Nature Reserve Russia (European)
RU1169 Alagirskoye i Kurtatinskoye ravines (Severo-Osetinski (North Osetin) Nature Reserve) Russia (European)
RU1175 Bazarduyzi and Shalbuzdag alpine mountains Russia (European)
RU1281 Kasumkentski reserve Russia (European)
RU1284 Kebyaktepe ridge Russia (European)
RU1303 Samurski ridge Russia (European)
RU1309 Sources of Kuna and Shisha rivers Russia (European)
RU1384 Alaniya National Park Russia (European)
RU1398 Sochinsky National Park Russia (European)
RU1399 Right coast of Malaya Laba River Russia (European)
RU1401 Bolchoi Tkhach mountain Russia (European)
RU1405 Ravine of Eshkakon river Russia (European)
RU1406 Sources of Khudes river Russia (European)
RU1407 Malka river ravine Russia (European)
RU1408 Priel'brus'ye National Park Russia (European)
RU1413 Khulamskoye ravine Russia (European)
RU1415 Digoriya rocks Russia (European)
RU1417 Targimskaya intermountain Russia (European)
RU1418 Shanskoye ravine Russia (European)
RU1429 Kosobo-Kelebski reserve Russia (European)
RU1430 Tlyaratinski reserve Russia (European)
TR060 Eastern Black Sea Mountains Turkey
TR158 Karçal Mountains Turkey
TR185 Yalnızçam Mountains Turkey

Threat and conservation

Habitat loss and deterioration is a major threat in this EBA, with some 50% of forests in the Greater Caucasus being subject to logging, 40% of the subalpine meadows suffering from overgrazing, and semi-desert areas being used as winter pastures for sheep-grazing (WWF/IUCN 1994). Nevertheless none of the restricted-range birds is considered globally threatened as the remoteness of much of the habitat gives natural protection to many areas. Tetrao mlokosiewiczi is, however, judged to be Near Threatened and is treated by Tucker and Heath (1994) as a Species of European Conservation Concern with an unfavourable conservation status. Although the population of T. mlokosiewiczi is numerically strong (c.70,000 birds in the Greater Caucasus and c.500 in the Lesser Caucasus), since the 1930s a slow decline in numbers and some local reductions in range have been detected (chiefly in the southern parts of its range), owing to the deterioration in the suitability of the alpine meadows through overgrazing. Unfortunately there appear to be no data for the last decade because of political unrest in the region.

As well as being important for its restricted-range species, this EBA holds significant breeding populations of raptors (including Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus, Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus), and vast numbers also migrate through the area. The Caucasus is also important for supporting the most northerly populations of Caspian Snowcock Tetraogallus caspius and Radde's Accentor Prunella ocularis, the most easterly ones of Krüper's Nuthatch Sitta krueperi, Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus and Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla, and most westerly ones of Güldenstädt's Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogaster and Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla (R. Potapov in litt. 1996). All these species are treated as Species of European Conservation Concern by Tucker and Heath (1994).

Several Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified for the region (Grimmett and Jones 1989, Magnin and Yarar 1997), and key reserves for Tetrao mlokosiewiczi are listed in Tucker and Heath (1994). The Pontic Alps IBA (12,300 km2) in the Little Caucasus of north-east Turkey covers the Turkish distribution of T. mlokosiewiczi. Overall, some 2% of the Caucasus is protected in c.40 nature reserves, but this network of protected areas needs to be substantially expanded, and existing nature reserves require improved management including the control of grazing levels, disturbance to breeding birds and illegal hunting; it is also necessary to implement wide-scale measures to reduce overgrazing and disturbance throughout the region (Tucker and Heath 1994). In the Turkish part of the EBA there are plans for large dams and virtually every stream in the area has been subject to development plans; large-scale water manipulation schemes could have far-reaching consequences for the natural habitats through flooding, climate change, access roads and construction. In addition, there is already much mining activity (e.g. for copper), and pollution in the vicinity of some of these mines is a major problem (Magnin and Yarar 1997).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Caucasus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2021.