Kulykol-Taldykol Lake System

Country/territory: Kazakhstan

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2007)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 11,960 ha

Protection status:

Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2015 high unfavourable not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The Kulykol-Taldykol Lake System is located on the right bank of the upper course of the Tobol river, at the boundary with the gently undulated plateaus of the Trans-Ural region and the Tersek-Adaevskoye Plateau. The IBA is situated in the sub-zone of dry steppes dominated by feather-grass-fescue associations alternating with wormwood-fescue associations. The region is included in a zone of intensive agriculture, predominantly grain production. Tilled lands surround the lakes on all sides, approaching within 5, sometimes 0.2 km, of the shoreline. This, together with other substantial factors, is resulting in a steady growth in the numbers of waterfowl (geese, ducks) during migration as the harvested crop fields provide ideal feeding conditions. Due to declining cattle raising the pastures and hayfields are not being used half as much as they were 20+ years ago. The IBA lies in the western part of Kamysty district 230 km south-west of the regional centre of Kostanai and 60 km to the south of the district centre of Kamysty. The Kulykol-Taldykol Hollow lies in the closed basin of the Tobol-Turgai Interfluve that is notable for having a sparse network of seasonal rivulets many of which only run for very short periods. Therefore the main water supply of the lakes is irregular seasonal runoff and snow-melt, which results in unstable hydrological and hydro-chemical regimes. The catchment for snow-melt covers c.1,200 km2, and stretches extensively north, west and south-west from the centre of the hollow. The only stream of moderate strength and extent (38 km) that retains some flow in summer, enters Kulykol from the south-west. Kulykol lake is an elongated waterbody oriented north-south for 10 km, with a maximum width of 4.9 km. The water area covers c.33.7 km2. Average depths are 2 m, exceptionally up to 4 m. The shores are fringed with reed interspersed with associations of Typha angstifolia, Bolboshoenus maritimis and Alisma plantago-aquatica. Reed also occurs as extensive patches over the entire water area. The open water stretches have aggregations of Ceratophyllum demersum, Potamogeton lucens, P. perfoliatus, P. pectinatus and Myriophyllum spicatum. In places with minimal surface disturbance the Ceratophyllum demersum is associated with Lemna trisulca, Polygonum amphibium and other species. Algae are represented by Chara tomentosa. There is an array of small islets in the lake. The largest of the group serves as a nesting area for colonial birds. Taldykol lake, 11.2 km2 in area, lies 2.3 km to the north of Kulykol and is almost regularly oval in shape. The greater part of its surface is occupied by reedbeds. On the lake's shore, as it is the case with the neighboring Kulykol, there are salt-tolerant grass meadows. At the northern and south-western parts, there are flood meadows dominated by Elytrigia repens, that often turn into marshes during times of deep flooding. In the higher and drier areas, the vegetation complexes acquire more of a xerophyte-predominant aspect, with Artemisia pausiflora, Festuca valesiaca and Stipa sareptana. During times of deep flooding the water in the lakes is fresh but during protracted droughts the mineralization steadily increases until, during periods of drastic evaporation, the waters become bitter and salty.

Key biodiversity
146 bird species have been recorded, including 99 species of waterbird composed as follows: Gaviiformes – 1, Podicipediformes - 4, Pelecaniformes - 3, Ciconiiformes – 6, Phoencopteriformes – 1, Anseriformes – 30, Charadriiformes - 46, Gruiformes – 8. Species composition and numbers are related to the prevailing hydrological situation. 45 species breed, the most numerous being geese, ducks, rails and gulls. Counts in 1995-1997 estimated the total number of breeding waterbirds as 80,000 individuals. Among the most numerous species were: Cygnus olor, Cygnus cygnus, Anser anser, Anas platyrhynchos, A. strepera, A. querquedula, A. acuta, A. clypeata, Aythya ferina, Aythya fuligula and Netta rufina. When water levels are high to moderate Fulica atra is extremely common as a breeding species. The common grebe species are: Podiceps cristatus and P. nigricollis. The reedbeds support Ardea cinerea, Egretta alba, Botaurus stellaris and Ixobrychus minutus. In years of favourable hydrological conditions colonial species are important. In 1998-2003, on the major island of Lake Kulykol 20-39 pairs of Pelecanus crispus bred, alongside Phalocrocorax carbo. Large colonies of Larus ichthyaetus (200-250 pairs), Larus cachinnans (100 pairs), L. canus and L. ridibundus, Gelochelidon nilotica, Chlidonias leucoptera, Sterna hirundo and Chlidonias niger also occur. The breeding wader community is represented by: Vanellus vanellus, Glareola nordmanni, Actitis hypoleucos, Tringa totanus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Limosa limosa and, possibly, Numenius arquata. When conditions are optimal large numbers of Anseriformes congregate to moult. In 2000, in the first half of June the overall number of birds was assessed at c.20-22,000 birds, of which the dominant species were Anser anser - 21.8%, Anas platyrhynchos (drakes) – 4.7%, A. querquedula – 14.3%, A. clypeata – 1.3%; with less numerous Anas penelope – 8.7%, Tadorna tadorna – 7.7% and A. strepera – 6.6%. The Kulykol-Taldykol Lake System is located in the middle of a major migratory flyway for waterfowl. Ducks and geese are the dominant components. In 1996-2005 single day counts gave figures varying from 37 to 160,000 birds, composed in general by 57.0-65.9% Anser albifrons, 8.4-10.1% Anser anser, 2.2-7.0% Anser erуthropus and 23.5-25.9% Branta ruficollis. The overall autumn migration is thought to number 450,000 birds. Despite the deterioration of hydrological conditions in the major habitats of Kulykol Lake in 2000-2005, the lake continued to support multitudes of waterbirds. In the first half of September 2005, 280,000 ducks were recorded, including Tadorna ferruginea – 19,800, Anas platyrhynchos – 53,350, A. crecca – 90,840, A. strepera – 3,000, A. penelope - 9,600, A. clypeata - 4,800, A. acuta – 82,200 (in all cases, except Tadorna ferruginea, numbers were estimated on the basis of sample counts). Raptors occurring on migration include Haliaeetus albicila, Aquila chrysaetos, A. heliaca, A. clanga, A. nipalensis, Circus cyaneus, C. pygargus, C. aeruginosus, Accipiter nisus, Buteo buteo, Buteo lagopus, Buteo rufinus, Falco tinnunculus, Falco subbuteo, Falco columbarius and Milvus migrans. Breeding birds in the surrounding steppe include: Grus virgo, Tetrax tetrax, Melanocorypha yeltoniensis and M. leucoptera. 13 species included in the IUCN Red List occur: Pelecanus crispus, Anser erythropus, Branta ruficollis, Aythya nyroca, Oxyura leucocephala, Circus macrourus, Aquila clanga, Aquila heliaca, Falco cherrug, Falco naumanni, Tetrax tetrax, Grus leucogeranus and Vanellus gregarius. Circus macrourus and Tetrax tetrax are regular nesting species, Pelecanus crispus nests in favorable years. In addition, the following species are listed in the National Red Book: Grus virgo (nesting), Larus ichtyaetus (irregular nesting), Grus grus (very probably nesting), Cygnus cygnus, Cygnus columbianus, Aquila chrysaetos, Haliaeetus albicilla, Egretta garzetta and Phoenicopterus roseus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The site supports at least 30 species of mammal. Most numerous are rodents. The humid ground areas are occupied by Apodemus sylvaticus, Microtus gregalis, Microtus oeconomus, Cricetus cricetus and Micromys minutus. In years when the lakes are full Arvicola terrestris and Ondatra zibetica breed. The steppe biotopes support substantial numbers of Microtus arvalis, Lagurus lagurus, Ellobius talpinus, Sicista subtilis, Allocricetulus eversmanni and Spermophillus major. On the eastern and southern slopes of the Lake’s hollow there are well-established colonies of Marmota bobac. Typical species of the Fescue-Artemisia steppe are: Allactaga major, Spermophillus pygmeus and Erinaceus auritus. Lepus europaeus occurs throughout, while Lepus timidus occurs only within the shore-line zone. Sus scrofa formerly occurred but now is absent. Frequently encountered predators are: Meles meles, Mustela erminea, Mustela nivalis, Mustela eversmanni, Vulpes corsac, Vulpes vulpes and Canis lupus. The area’s primordial aspect and structure of virgin steppe vegetation suffered severe agricultural transformation during the last half century. Only the western slopes of the Kulykol-Taldykol Hollow still have intact remnants of the former xerophyte-rich flora of the dry steppes. Along the saline sections of the shore-line the typical desert species Kalidium shrenkianum can be found, on the very edge of its northern distribution. The National Red Book species - Tulipa schrenkii -can be foujnd in a few locations. The site also supports the relic species Lemna trisulca.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kulykol-Taldykol Lake System. Downloaded from on 21/01/2021.