The site covers the hilly upland massif on the left bank of the Sary-Su river. The northern boundary is situated 40 km to the south of Karazhal village, the southern one lies close to the small settlement of Shalgiya. In the south-east it is 25 km from the village of Dzhambul.
The site is chiefly steppe with patches of semi-desert between a range of hills. The hills are aggregated into a system of ranges arranged mainly in a east-west direction. The tops and sides of the hills have outcrops with rock ledges which encourages the growth of scrub consisting in most cases of Spiraca and Caragana sp. The drainage network lacks any major running waterbody and is made up of a weak system of intermittent rivulets supporting, occasionally, small stagnant ponds. At the lowest parts of are scattered alkaline areas.
A typical example of the peripheral parts of the Kazakh hilly uplands. The chief interest of the area is the regionally important population of Aquila nipalensis. In addition to A nipalensis, the commonest predator is Bubo bubo. The third (less numerous) species is Buteo rufinus, which is most frequent in the northern parts of the site. Here, in addition to conventional nest sites in rocky ravines, it regularly nests on powerline poles. A thorough inspection of the powerlines also found two nests of Saker, but overall numbers of this species are estimated to be only 4 breeding pairs. Circus macrourus is frequently encountered, mainly in river valley areas. In the open steppe or on the exposed slopes, Circus pygargus is more numerous than C macrourus. Circaetus gallicus is distributed very sparsely, nesting among the bluffs in rocky areas (one nest has been found). Most numerous among the smaller predators is Falco naumanni, occurring in colonies, usually of 5-10 pairs, in almost all areas with suitable rock outcrops. Among the common passerines of the area is the biome-restricted Melanocorypha yeltoniensis.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Owing to the unattractiveness of the area for industrial exploitation, the majority of the area is in a pristine state, and man-made threats are, practically, nonexistent.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ayak-Bestau Hills. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/04/2021.