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The area is a medium-sized massif of hilly ranges in the southern part of the Kazakh uplands. The ranges are rough with numerous granite intrusions. The floor of every valley or gulley is filled with woody or shrubby growth. The densest stands of forest are found in the moist bottoms of gorges and along the river valleys at the foot of the hills. The main tree species is aspen. Birch, willow and bird cherry are common in the northern half of the site; the southern parts are conspicuous for their homogeneous aspen forests. The exposed upland plains support both semi-desert and dry steppe floral associations. Petrophyte steppe complexes are restricted to the granite-dominated terrain. The inter-range depressions often contain heavily waterlogged plots of land.
The Ortau uplands are one of the most important Kazakh breeding areas of Falco cherrug, with a regular and relatively stable population. Additionally, there are substantial breeding numbers of Aquila chrysaetos, Circaetus gallicus and Ciconia nigra. There are also important, though localised, populations of Hieraaetus pennatus and Lyrurus tetrix. Other numerous species are Falco tinnunculus, Accipiter nisus and Asio otus. Tadorna ferruginea breeds along the rocky banks of the river valleys, and almost every granite outcrops holds breeding Falco naumanni. Harriers, especially Circus macrourus, nest semi-colonially throughout the scattered scrub of the mountain slopes and along the watercourses.
Non-bird biodiversity: Ovis ammon is regularly seen in good numbers in all upland areas.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ortau upland massif. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/03/2021.