Mongolia Birding Tours
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia and is a similar size to the historical territory of Outer Mongolia, a term that is sometimes used to refer to the current state. Russia is to the north and China is to the east, south, and west (the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is to the southeast of Mongolia within China). Although not bordering Mongolia, Kazakhstan is only 23 miles (37 kilometers) away from its westernmost point. Mongolia is second to Kazakhstan as the largest landlocked country in the world, but is the most sparsely populated sovereign state in the world with a population of 3.3 million people, 45 % of whom live in the capital, Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator). Around 30 % of the population is still nomadic or semi-nomadic moving around the vast steppe grasslands where horse culture is an integral part of life, as it has been for thousands of years.
The history of Mongolia and its people makes for some seriously fascinating reading. Homo erectus inhabited Mongolia from 850,000 years ago and modern humans appeared about 40,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. Caves have been found with ochre paintings which are dated as more than 20,000 years old, illustrating lynx, Bactrian Camels, and even ostriches!
Since these prehistoric times, Mongolia has been inhabited by nomads who, from time to time, formed great confederations that rose to power and prominence. None more famous than Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan) who in the chaos of the late 12th century, waged a series of military campaigns – renowned for their brutality and ferocity – sweeping through much of Asia, and forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Under his successors it stretched from present-day Poland in the west to Korea in the east, and from parts of Siberia in the north to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the south, covering a staggering 13,000,000 square miles (33,000,000 square kilometers) before its gradual collapse and retreat back into what is effectively present-day Mongolia, in the period after his death.
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In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia and by the early 1900s, almost one-third of the adult male population were Buddhist monks, it is still the most widespread religion in the country.
The country has been made famous worldwide by Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes but the draw of numerous highly sought and poorly known bird species has also had birders and wildlife enthusiasts enthralled in the county for years. According to International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy the Mongolian national list is almost 530 bird species.
Situated on the Mongolian Plateau, Mongolia is one of the most exciting and remote birding destinations in Asia with Siberian taiga forest, vast seamless steppe grassland, numerous freshwater and brackish lakes, the Gobi Desert (with astounding sand dunes), and impressive mountains, the highest point being the Khüiten Peak in the Tavan Bogd massif in the far west, near the triple border with China and Russia, at a height of 14,350 feet (4,374 meters).
There are four categories of protected areas in Mongolia (put in place after independence in the 1990s) these are: Strictly Protected Areas, national parks, natural and historic monuments, and nature reserves, some of these are visited on our tours, such as Gorkhi Terelj National Park, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, and Gurvan Saikhan National Park. BirdLife International recognizes 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) scattered widely across the country and one Endemic Bird Area (EBA), the Mongolian Mountains EBA, home to Kozlov’s Accentor (called Mongolian Accentor by some taxonomic groups) and Mongolia’s sole bird endemic.
Our Mongolian birdwatching tours offer the ultimate adventure to find an array of dream birds from the Eastern Palearctic, timed to ensure we are in the best areas at the best time of year. We stay in comfortable local-style yurts (here called gers) offering an incredible and authentic almost-nomadic-feeling Mongolian experience. What is more, Mongolia is known as the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky” because it has over 250 sunny days, making birding and bird photography much more fun! Some of the important birds in Mongolia include White-naped Crane, Demoiselle Crane, Siberian Crane, Swan Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Black-billed Capercaillie, Altai Snowcock, Ural Owl, Amur Falcon, Saker Falcon, Cinereous Vulture, Upland Buzzard, Oriental Plover, Relict Gull, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Mongolian Lark, Henderson’s Ground Jay, Siberian Rubythroat, Chinese Bush Warbler, Saxaul Sparrow, Kozlov’s Accentor, monotypic Wallcreeper, Mongolian Finch, Pere David’s Snowfinch, and Brandt’s Mountain Finch.
There are a great many highly sought-after mammals present in Mongolia, none more so than the enigmatic Snow Leopard. We have a specific Snow Leopard tour focusing on finding this mega mammal and there are a great many other charismatic mammals present in Mongolia that can be found during our birding or leopard tour. These include Siberian Ibex, Saiga, Goitered Gazelle, wild Bactrian Camel, Mongolian Wild Ass, Przewalski’s Horse, Wolverine, Brown (Gobi) Bear, Grey (Himalayan) Wolf, Corsac Fox, Eurasian Lynx (two subspecies that may pertain to separate species: Turkestan Lynx and Altai Lynx), Pallas’s Cat, and numerous squirrels, marmots, pikas, gerbils, voles, and jerboas.
We look forward to welcoming you to Mongolia, where we are sure you will have a fabulous time.
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Mongolia: Steppes & Gobi Desert Birding May 2023/2024