Kapchagay Canyon

Country/territory: Kazakhstan

IBA criteria met: A1, A3, A4i (2007)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 14,950 ha

Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2018 very unfavourable not assessed negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2007 baseline)
The site is situated 50 km to the north of Almaty and comprises the middle section of the Ili river corresponding to the first 30 kms starting at the point where it discharges from the Kapchagay Hydroelectric Power Station. The river is bordered on both sides by ranges of dry, low, rocky mountains. The concave northern slopes are often covered with patches of xerophyte bushes including Spiraea sp., Cotoneaster sp. and Cerasus sp. The river valley proper is a flat and narrow terrace (up to 500 m in width) with loams and sands underlying a typical South-Kazakhstan plains semi-desert landscape. There are frequent and lengthy belts of sparse riverine forest (tugai) consisting, predominantly, of Elaeagnus sp., Populus diversifolia, Salex sp., Halimodendron argenteum and Tamarix sp. Five elongated islands covered with thick tugai thickets and fringed with reeds gives the corresponding segments of the river a more conspicuous wild feel. In winter, owing to the turbulence created by the escaping waters from the power plant, the river does not freeze along the full length of the canyon.

Key biodiversity
The avifauna, including passage species, totals 200 species. Most of the nesting species are typical of the fauna of stark arid rocky hills; with such species as Alectoris chukar, Aquila chrysaetos, Neophron percnopterus, Falco tinnunculus, F. naumanni, Riparia rupestris, Oenanthe pleschanka, Emberiza buchanani and Sitta tephronota. Water and/or tugai-dwelling species include Anas platyrhynchos, Phasianus colchicus, Circus pygargus, Haematopus ostralegus, Charadrius dubius and Motacilla feldegg. The site also has several desert and semi-desert species such as Athene noctua, Melanocorypha bimaculata, M. calandra, Eremophila alpestris, Calandrella brachydactyla, Emberiza bruniceps, and Oenanthe isabellina. The most numerous species in the breeding season is Sturnus roseus, the largest colonies of which often containing tens of thousand of individuals.

Non-bird biodiversity: The dense tugai is frequently augmented by a prolific growth of Clematis orientalis, a species common to the region.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Kapchagay Canyon. Downloaded from on 25/09/2023.