Western and northern foothills of the Kalba Range

Site description (2006 baseline):

Site location and context
The IBA lies to the south of Semipalatinsk, east of Charsk (Shar) and west of Ust-Kamenogorsk. In the west the site borders the Char (Shar) river, in the north, it approximately follows the shore of Lake AkTailak as far as Ascaraly settlement, then follows the border of the administrative divisions along the Kyzylshu river, passing Stepnoye and Kamenka, to the western foot of Dongaly mountain as far as the north-west end of the mountain range. In the east its border is the stretch of land running south-east/north-west parallel to the Yrtysh river, about 30-40 km from the river towards Leninka and then along the line of the Ust-Kamenogorsk – Samarskoye highway to Targyn. In the south the site extends as far as the settlements of Georgiyevka – Staraia Kanaika – Zhanuzak – Algabass –Targyn, all lying along the foothills of western Kalba Slope. The site consists predominantly of an aggregation of rugged hilly ridges with many wasted granite intrusions, and the flat valleys of the north-western parts of the Shar and Kyzylshu rivers. The main floral communities are those of dry steppe, with an increasing proportion of mesophyllic species from west to east. As the elevation gradually increases from south and east, these parts of the IBA are the most afforested. Throughout the whole of the IBA the stands of watershed forest are linked to the presence of the waterlogged granite intrusions and thus have no distinct distributional pattern. A number of the watercourses had developed flood forests (uryomas) but, in some areas these have been decimated in historical times. Dry, xerophyte steppe is the main character of the landscape with various combinations of perennial grasses and herbs, of which the largest share are Fescue, Feather-grasses and Wormwoods, varying in accordance with altitude and the east-west geodetic gradient. In the eastern part of the site, this vegetation is supplemented by its shrub-form counterparts.

Key biodiversity
In addition to the key IBA species, the site supports breeding Sturnus roseus (colonies of 500-1,200 pairs). Bubo bubo is also a common breeding species.

Non-bird biodiversity: Several endangered mammal species occur including Ovis ammon (metapopulation consisting of more or less isolated groups dwelling in several hilly massifs – Aiyrtau, Kyzyltau and others); Dryomys nitedula and Otocolobus manul (confirmed for Delbegetey, surmised for other massifs). There are several endemic plants including Caragana bongardiana (Aiyrtau environs).

Habitat and land use
Mineral extraction takes place on the outskirts of Auhezov, Shalabai, Oktyabr’sky and Akshoky and there is infrastructure associated with the Charsk-UstKamenogorsk railway. However as these activities are localised, their effects on breeding birds ought to be considered as negligible.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
A major threat is the network of powerlines, unequipped with accident-proof raptor perches, but the extent of this particular hazard has not been studied in detail. The main agricultural activity in the area is grazing and although overall numbers of livestock have been reduced, there is heavy grazing in many areas. Illegal trapping of Falco cherrug is known to have occurred in the past.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Ongoing research and monitoring, especially of Falco cherrug, is desirable. It would be beneficial to resurrect plans for the establishment of Sibinsky National Park. The area of the Sibinskiye Lakes and adjacent Koktau and Kyzyltas mountains, which are currently affected by disturbance from grazing and recreation, ought to be regarded as valuable landscape features with special wildlife.

Land ownership
Mixed, with state ownership accounting for the majority.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Western and northern foothills of the Kalba Range. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023.