Chingiztau Mountains

Country/territory: Kazakhstan

IBA criteria met: A1, A3, A4i, A4ii (2007)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 863,490 ha

Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2017 low favourable negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (baseline)
The site is situated just to the west-west-north of Ayagoz city, 240 km to the south-west of the regional centre of Ust-Kamenogorsk, 140 km to the south-south-west of Semipalatinsk and close to Karaul. The area consists of a rugged upland massif, extending along the Kyzylsengir Hills, plus the adjacent valleys of the Ayagoz and Aschisu rivers and tributaries, and secondary upland massifs, of predominantly weathered bedrock, lying just to the east (Delbeghetey, Orda, Saryadyr and Karahadyr). The Shyngystau Range runs in a north-west direction and is the eastern edge of the vast hilly Kazakh Uplands. The central part of the range is a significantly undulating plateau. Despite the main Akshatau and Kyzylzhal ranges have the appearance of watersheds, most of the rivers (Bakanas, Arsalan, Akshatau) emerge within the plateau and run southwards. The inner part of the Shyngystau has a well-developed network of watercourses, the largest being the Alpeyis and Bakanas rivers, these follow the slopes of the Akshatau/Kyzylzhar range and descend in opposite directions through the foothills to the west and east respectively. Both major slopes are rough and heavily split, with ravines spaced 100-150 m apart on average. The general landform of the slopes is straight or concave with numerous rock outcroppings and screes and occasional rocky ridges. The majority of the valleys are deep, often V-shaped, with abrupt turns, and frequently have either swampy areas or small rivulets at the bottom. The main rivers usually end on the plain in debris cones (Takyr, Mukyr, Shet and Kolgaty rivers). The valleys of the largest rivers are invariably V-shaped, with their beds often rock-strewn, and often forming canyons. The southern slope of the Shyngystau contains the Ayagoz valley that rises in the Tarbagatai Range and ends by the shore of Lake Balkhash. The valley of this river is deep and has many ledges above the floodplain and, with its meandering course, contains many secondary waterbodies. The north-eastern slope of the range descends steeply towards the Aschisu river valley, extending in a couple of places as hilly massifs. The broad valley, up to 40 km in width, runs north-west with many saline plots. The majority of rivers have intermittent flows and are heavily silted. The major part of the valley is covered with the converging fans from the numerous run-offs from the surrounding slopes. The western edge of the Aschisu valley consists of the Okpekty hills (Delbegetey and others), part of the main Chynystau range. The eastern edge of the valley includes the several medium-sized hill ranges (Saryhadyr, Karahadyr and Koitas) which could be included in the IBA. The ranges here are generally smooth. One peculiar feature of geology is the Orda granite massif (Ordatas mountain, 1,065 m) which is isolated from the main range. This massif is remarkable for its dramatic relief with several valleys of tectonic origin. The majority of the site has steppe-related communities. The flora includes several steppic associations with Stipa capillata in combination with the northern desert floral assemblage (Artemisia sublessingiana, A. compacta), Petrophyte variants of tussock-grass dry steppes, and true xerophyte-rich motley-herbage-turf-grass steppes (Stipa zalesskii, Helictotrichon desertorum and others). The plateau and Akshatau ridge are covered by a variety of montane meadows. All of the steppe areas have many low bushes, the most numerous being Caragana balchaschensis and Spireae sp. An especially large area of Caragana sp., interspersed with Lonicera microphylla, occurs along the edges of the north-eastern faces of the Shyngystau range and Orda massif. The land along the upland valleys and Ashisu river have patches of Halimodendron halodendron. The same areas often have fragments of semi-moist steppe with the most conspicuous grassy element being Lasiagrostis splendens. The wet meadows proper, sometimes including saline communities or emergent marsh vegetation, occur in the bottoms of the valley or by the banks of lakes on the Shyngystau plateau. Woods are restricted to a few deep-cut river valleys in the uplands and the Ayagoz floodplain. The main woody species are birch, poplar, aspen and willow with occasional Russian olive and an assortment of large bushes. The outer edge of the woodland plots often consists of narrow stretches of willow and tamarisk.

Key biodiversity
During a field survey of the area in mid-summer 2007, besides the key species, there were several observations of interest. These included: Circaetus gallicus (two observations – a pair and a single bird in the Kuraily river valley about 9 km apart. The species probably inhabits the whole southern slope of the Shyngystau and possibly the inner range); Aquila chrysaetos (3 nests discovered: with broods of 1 and 2 chicks. One of the commonest eagles on the Range but more detailed information is required); Buteo rufinus (very common and numerous. 24 nests were located, in 3 breeding areas: in the two nests inspected were broods of 2 and 3 fledglings. It is worth noting that all breeding pairs of Falco cherrug were using the old nests of Buteo rufinus); Falco subbuteo (common in the flood-forests of the rivers draining the southern slope and major plateau of Shyngystau. Nests were found in the Ayagoz and Alpehis river valleys and often observed in exposed landscapes very far from any forest); Falco tinnunculus (very frquent everywhere. One inspected nest contained 4 fledglings); Bubo bubo (heard in the Ayagoz river valley. There is little doubt that the species inhabits the whole area, but is thinly distributed with numbers half that of similar biotopes in the Western Altai foothills); Athene noctua (a single record in nesting habitat on the outskirts of Zhurekadyr village); Ciconia nigra (a single record in the Orta-Saryozek river valley – southern slope); Haematopus ostralegus (recorded twice in the Ayagoz river valley); Limosa limosa (frequent along the river valleys, especially in the southern slope of the Shyngystau and its major plateau. Flying young were seen in the Akshatau range); Numenius arquata (was recorded by moist depressions on the main plateau); Larus cachinnans (one flock of more than 60 birds was observed in the northern part of the site); Merops apiaster (a small colony in the vicinity of Momynzhan); Sturnus roseus (huge flocks, often more than 1,000 individuals, were observed over the whole outer parts of the Range). Among the Passerines occurring at the site in large numbers were Alauda arvensis, Melanocorypha calandra, Eremophila alpestris, Anthus campestris, Motacilla cinerea , Saxicola torquata, Oenanthe isabellina, Oe. oenanthe, Oe. pleschanka, Luscinia megarhynchos, L. svecica, Monticola saxatilis, Emberiza buchanani, E. cioides, and more rarely Emberiza godlewskii. The total number of species recorded is 70, of which about 65 breed.

Non-bird biodiversity: At least two threatened mammals occur: Ovis ammon (approximately 220 head in the Shyngystau range and Karahadyr massif) and Otocolobus manul (suspected for some ranges). There are several common small mammal species providing food of many of the raptors including Myospalax altaicus, Marmota baibacibna and Ochotona pusilla.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Chingiztau Mountains. Downloaded from on 08/06/2023.