December 16, 2009

A presumed Leopard Cat at Kherlen River, eastern Mongolia
by Thomas Hallfarth

 On 7 July 2009 I recorded a wild cat at the Kherlen gol (gol=river), about 50 km west from the city of Choibalsan in eastern Mongolia. The geographical coordinates of the observation site are N 48°03’, E 113°44’. The habitat consists of long-grass steppe with single exposed rocks and boulders. About 600 m from the observation site a narrow “gallery bush forest” grows along the Kherlen River and its small side arms.

Presumed Leopard Cat, Kherlen River,
July 2009. © T. Hallfarth
click to enlarge

 I observed the animal from about one kilometre distance for c. 30–40 minutes. The weather and viewing conditions were good. A slight heat haze had a marginal impact on the observation only.

Leopard Cat, Kherlen
River, July 2009. © T. Hallfarth

click to enlarge

A few photos with a digital camera were taken through a telescope. Due to the great distance the photos came out quite poor, but they show the key features rather well.

Presumed Leopard Cat, Kherlen
River, July 2009. © T. Hallfarth

I am absolutely sure that the animal was a cat! The pelage colour was a washed grey without any conspicuous pattern (great distance!). The tip of the tail was black. The key ID feature was certainly the structure of the cat: Firstly, the cat had a very long tail which was held bent upward. And the animal showed strong, powerful shoulders. These features gave the cat an irbis-like or even leopard-like appearance.

Presumed Leopard Cat, Kherlen
River, July 2009. © T. Hallfarth

During the observation period the cat was slowly moving through the grassland on top of a hill, probably searching for food, though no hunting behaviour could be observed. It was presumably laying down several times (when it disappeared from my view). In dimension the animal appeared bigger than a normal domestic cat. Not far from it we discovered a family of Corsac Foxes later. Although we couldn't compare the two species directly, we had an indirect comparison of a canid and a felid. The cat showed typical movements of a cat. A confusion with a canid (occurring in the area: Corsac and Red Fox, Grey Wolf) can be excluded.

Presumed Leopard Cat, Kherlen
River, July 2009. © T. Hallfarth

The only larger cat occurring in the wider area is the Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis. This polytypic species is widely distributed from the northern Indian Subcontinent, northern China and south-eastern Russia to South-East Asia. The subspecies P. b. euptilurus, which is sometimes considered specifically distinct, is called Amur Leopard Cat. It occurs in the Manchurian region, Korea and Russian Far East.

Distribution of Leopard Cat in China.
From: Smith & Yan Xie (2008).

Leopard Cats measure 45–75 cm (head-body), and have a tail lengths of 19.5–31.5 cm. They weight 1.7–7.1 kg. Cats from Russia and northern China are two to three times larger than cats from southern Asia (Wilson & Mittermeier 2009).

This photo of a wild Amur Leopard Cat in South Korea
shows the powerful shoulder area of this subspecies
quite well. From an article in JoongAng Daily.

Amur Leopard Cat, Seosan, South Korea, 17 June 2007.
© Tim Edelsten

The species occurs mainly in forests, but “also in shrub forests, but not in grassland or steppe (except marginal areas and riparian ecosystems)” (Smith & Yan Xie 2008), though Wilson & Mittermeier (2009) write that they are also found – though rarely – in cold steppe grasslands.

An Amur Leopard Cat at Dortmund Zoo
© Stefan Kulpa,

Leopard Cat has not been recorded from Mongolia and thus the observation described here would constitute the first record.

Tim Edelsten has commented as follows:

Just my thoughts based on my personal sightings/ impressions:

Although the images are not clear, it appears to have a thick greyish-brown coat with contrastingly paler chin and belly, and thick tail, which are typical for Amur Leopard Cat, (although which can also be shared with Feral Cat).

Structure-wise however, to me it shows the athletic build, strong and high shoulder, and proportionately longer body and sloping back of Amur Leopard Cat that would distinguish it from Feral Cat in my experience.

So without being sure, I would lean towards an identification of Amur Leopard Cat.

More comments on this observation are welcome!

Acknowledgments. My thanks go to Tim Edelsten for letting me use his photo of an Amur Leopard Cat from Korea and for commenting the observation. Stefan Kulpa kindly allowed to include his excellent photo of a Leopard Cat. Axel Braunlich did some background research and helped to write this contribution.


Smith, A. T. & Yan Xie 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press.

Wilson, D. E. & Mittermeier, R. A. eds. 2009. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 1 Carnivores. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

December 11, 2009

Resighting of Bar-headed Goose in India

Atanu Mondal recorded a collared Bar-headed Goose i
n a tank at Kamalapura, Hampi, Karnataka, southern India along with 11 other birds on 22 November 2009. (In India, an irrigation tank or tank is an artificial reservoir of any size).

Bar-headed Goose, S India, Nov 2009. © Atanu Mondal

Martin Gilbert from the Wildlife Conservation Society has commented as follows:

Thank you for sending your report. The bird that you observed (yellow collar N9), is a female and was captured during our work in the Darkhad Valley, northern Mongolia on 17 July 2008. The approximate location of the bird’s capture was N: 99.41078; E: 51.19736. Interestingly, we have also received reports over the last few days of two other birds that we caught in Darkhad on the same evening, who have also just arrived in southern India and are currently at Magadi tank, in Gadag district, Karnataka.

Thank you again for sending in this information. I would be very interested to receive any further details of resightings of collared birds that you observe.

Best of luck, and good birding!


August 28, 2009

Five days birding in August
Tim Edelsten

August 20, 2009
Starting in Ulaanbaatar, I quickly found House Sparrow, Eurasian Magpie and Tree Sparrow; Black-eared Kites and Ravens were plentiful soaring over the city outskirts.

Black-eared Kite. © Tim Edelsten

Unable to locate the famous UB ponds, I instead explored some mountainous area further on from the airport, which soon provided Upland Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Hoopoe, Barn Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, White Wagtail, and small flocks of Yellow Wagtail.

Isabelline Wheatear. © Tim Edelsten

Red-billed Chough. © Tim Edelsten

A cloud of Red-billed Chough was seen to mob a very darkly marked Saker Falcon, with a Eurasian Sparrowhawk nearby. Another interesting raptor was a Peregrine Falcon, which to me showed a slenderer structure than would a typical Peregrine.

Peregrine Falcon. © Tim Edelsten

At a very broad section of the Tuul river, dotted with lush islands, I noted Grey Wagtail, Common Tern, Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Cinereous Vulture, Daurian Jackdaw, and a Eurasian Kestrel. A pair of Amur Falcon noisily tended their nest and chicks.

Common Tern. © Tim Edelsten

Amur Falcon. © Tim Edelsten

In the Children’s Park in UB I added 2 juvenile Brown Shrikes.

August 21st
Heading west from the city was the first of several flocks of Demoiselle Crane. An isolated pond on the steppe further provided Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, Slavonian Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Common Teal, Red-necked Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper. A group of Pere David’s Snowfinch roved nearby, and a Sand Martin was among thousands of swallows on the wires.

A brief stop at the fringes of Byaan Nuur lake revealed 2 clearly Western Marsh Harrier (as opposed to Eastern), a Great Cormorant, Mongolian Lark, Gadwall, Ruddy Shelducks, Black-tailed Godwits, migrating flocks of Pacific Golden Plover, and a pale-looking Saker. Horned Larks and Lesser Short-toed Larks were abundant. Also on the water, a family of Whooper Swan and 3 Swan Goose.

August 22nd
At Ogij Nuur, the main lake hosted good numbers of Common Pochard , Mongolian Gull and Black-headed Gull, less abundant were Great Crested Grebe, Bar-headed Geese, Grey Heron, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, and one Great Egret. In grasses fringing the lake, several Chestnut-eared Bunting.

Chestnut-eared Bunting. © Tim Edelsten

Most productive however was a shallow area of temporarily flooded freshwater separate from the main lake, where crowded together were Northern Lapwing (1), Common Shelduck (10+), a Temminck’s Stint, a synchronised flock of feeding Pied Avocet, several Common Redshank (4), Red-necked Phalarope (8), White-winged Tern (15), Red Knot (2), Northern Pintail (c.12), Curlew Sandpiper (c.25), Garganey (2), Pintail Snipe (1), Ruff (4), Kentish Plover (c.10), Common Greenshank (c.10), Ruddy Turnstone (2), a lone Broad-billed Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper (2), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (c.6), Long-toed Stint (2), and most interesting to me personally, 5 Little Gull. On nearby Steppe, a juvenile Richard's Pipit and a Northern Hobby.

Northern Hobby. © Tim Edelsten

August 23rd
A fuller investigation of the lake at Bayaan Nuur added c. 70 Eurasian Curlew, 2 Far Eastern Curlew, c. 10 Black-winged Stilt, and several Little Curlew amongst the large numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers. Towards the reeds, numerous Common Snipe, 1 White-cheeked Starling, and c.20 Common Coot. At around sunset 4 Bearded Tit emerged from the reeds and I located a Citrine Wagtail in the swamp.

Eurasian Curlew. © Tim Edelsten

August 24th
The main shallow wetland near the entrance to Gun-Galuut held a Eurasian Spoonbill; inside the reserve, 2 Black Stork and a family of Brown Shrike.

At Terelj, a Lammergeier finally soared low overhead as I ascended one of the crags, making for a trip total of 97 species.

Demoiselle Crane. © Tim Edelsten

July 26, 2009

Children’s Park used to be one of the best birding spots in UB

Having visited this park for more than 20 years, I can say with full confidence that the Children's Park was one of the best birding spots in Ulaanbaatar. The reason I say “it was” is because this place is not same at all what it used to be before. Until recently, I used to see some rare birds here, like, just to name a few, Penduline Tit, Siberian Rubythroat, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Daurian Redstart, Eurasian Hoopoe, Meadow Bunting, and Black (-eared) Kite nesting and Hawfinch, Bohemian's Waxwing, Azure Tits, Long-tailed Rose Finch, Daurian Partridge, and Azure-winged Magpie wintering at this park, and of cause tons of migrants during fall and spring migration periods. Some 15 years ago, Red Deer Cervus elaphus was a regular visitor to this park. Even one could see them walking with their calves. I remember there was a waterhose which was left open for quite a long time from late fall to mid winter in 1993. After a while it created a pool which became a favorite place for every bird in the park. I went there twice a week to observe birds that came to this pool for drinking. Here I saw my first Grey-headed Woodpecker. A friend of mine even produced a university course work on birds of this park with some over 100 species. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of this report. Now I can just hope that someday there will be gardens and trees flourishing again. So it will attract birds back and we can enjoy again.



Wildlife Science and Conservation Center

July 22, 2009

Ulaanbaatar’s Children’s Park is vanishing
Tracey Naughton

I live in apartment that looks out over the area of Ulaanbaatar known as the Children’s Park. Sadly I don’t hear the laughter of children, just the loud noises of earth moving equipment and drilling rigs. This park, a place of rare solace in the unplanned city of Ulaanbaatar, has been closed to the public for some time now and no one can enjoy it. Some say, it was sold to a Japanese company who will transform it into an amusement park. Some wish it would simply be opened so it can be enjoyed as it is.

Construction in Ulaanbaatar’s Children’s Park,
July 2009. Photo © Tracey Naughton.

From where I live I can see that a large corner of it has been sectioned off and is being developed rapidly. You can’t see this from the ground level, because of the fence, but I can see it from above. Some say it will be a Shangri La Hotel. Some wonder about this with so many construction projects at a halt, including the proposed Hilton Hotel just down the road. Some just wish the park was available for the people to walk in. New York was wise enough to preserve some nature for people amidst its intensely developed island. It’s called Central Park. How long will the people of Ulaanbaatar have a park in the city. When can we use it? Does anyone know what is really planned for that site?

Construction in Ulaanbaatar’s Children’s Park,
July 2009. Photo © Tracey Naughton.

There is also a new contribution The Children’s Park - July 2009 update in Michael Kohn’s Save the Ulaanbaatar Children’s Park - A blog to stop of the destruction of Ulaanbaatar’s open spaces. Michael started also Facebook group to rally more online support and awareness of the shenanigans going down in the Children’s Park. Here is the link. Follow it, get on it!

July 13, 2009

Mongolia's forests burning: are they good or are they bad?

Read about forest fires and watch a Youtube video at Tony Whitten’s blog.

See also my posting about forest fires on Birding Mongolia, and Igor Fefelov’s comment:

Hi Axel and others,
to the point, ongoing data on the fire situation around Lake Baikal (including some part of northern Mongolia, between ca 103 and 112 deg. E and to south up to 49 deg. N) having been obtained daily can be found here (in Russian but can be understood in the context I hope)
Igor F

July 5, 2009

Bird reports from China and Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS) has now stock of these recently published reports:


Published and produced by the China Ornithological Society supported by the Beijing and Hong Kong Bird Watching Societies. It is a bilingual publication in English and Chinese.

A5 format with 426 pages including 37 pages of colour plates depicting 64 species. Key illustrations include Chinese Monal, Sichuan Partridge, White-headed Duck, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Chinese Crested Tern, Long-billed Thrush and Nonggang Babbler.

This year the Report covers records of 1071 species representing 80% of species recorded in China.

EU Price (including postage and packing) £16.60

Payment may be via PayPal or personal cheques drawn on UK banks only please made payable to Hong Kong Bird Watching Society.


This Report again covers 2 years as the Society makes an effort to catch up with its publication of these important reports.

Published and produced by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, 2009.

239 pages including 34 colour plates.

The main body of the work is taken up with the Systematic List 2003–04 which covers the 345 species recorded in Hong Kong during the period. The list includes the following new records for Hong Kong: Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Malayan Night Heron (breeding), Greater White-fronted Goose, Chinese Thrush and Baikal Bush Warbler. Additionally there are articles describing first record for White-spectacled Warbler and breeding records for Red-rumped Swallow and Yellow-billed Grosbeak.

There are taxonomic reviews of Goodson’s Leaf Warbler, Northern Hawk Cuckoo, Spot-billed Duck, Oriental Cuckoo and Pale Martin in respect of the taxa that occur in Hong Kong.

EU Price (including postage and packing) £12.07

Payment by PayPal, cheques drawn on UK banks only please made payable to Hong Kong Bird Watching Society or cash.

For delivery in the European Union (prices above) contact:

R D E Stott
Abbey Place,
Defford Road
WR10 1JF
United Kingdom
hkbwsuk at

For orders from outside the EU (and prices) please contact
the HKBWS Hong Kong office directly on hkbws at

June 20, 2009

Photospot: Altai Snowcock

Altai Snowcock. Gobi Altai Mountains.
December 2008. © Tumendelger Humbaa

These remarkable photographs were taken by Tumendelger Humbaa in the Zuun saikhan mountains of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park in Mongolia’s South Gobi Province on 23 December 2008. Tumen wrote to Birding Mongolia: “It was very cold and the mountain Takhilga is pretty high. This mountain is 2815 meter above see level. There were 15 Snowcocks altogether. I could approach 4 of them. My camera is a Nikon D-300 with a 300-mm lens.”

Altai Snowcock. Gobi Altai Mountains.
December 2008. © Tumendelger Humbaa

These are probably the best photographs of this species ever taken! Considering the circumstances (winter temperatures in Mongolia can drop well below minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter!) Tumen can only be congratulated for his superb photos!

The Altai Snowcock Tetraogallus altaicus has a rather limited global range. It breeds mainly in Russia in southern Siberia (mountains near Abakan, Sayan Mts, Tannu Ola Mts) and in Mongolia (Mongolian Altai, Gobi Altai, Khangai, mountains east of lake Khuvsgul). It is not globally threatened, but it has a rather small total population, estimated at 50,000 – 100,000 individuals.

June 18, 2009

Rare herons in the Mongolian Gobi

This Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus was photographed by Tumendelger Humbaa on 9 May 2009 in the Juulchin Gobi Tourist Camp. This camp is 38 km from the provincial capital Dalanzadgad in Mongolia’s South Gobi Province (aimag).

Chinese Pond Heron. South Gobi aimag.
May 2009. Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

Chinese Pond Heron. South Gobi aimag.
May 2009. Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

Chinese Pond Heron is a rare passage migrant
in Mongolia, recorded annually during the last years.

Another Chinese Pond Heron was recorded the day
before in the Gobi, c. 220 km to the SE of the Juulchin
Gobi camp by Dorjderem Sukhragchaa.

Chinese Pond Heron. South Gobi aimag.
8 May 2009. © Dorjderem Sukhragchaa

Not far from the latter site Dorj found a dead adult
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
on 11 May 2009.

Black-crowned Night Heron. South Gobi aimag.
May 2009. © Dorjderem Sukhragchaa

Black-crowned Night Heron is a very rare migrant in Mongolia, with a scattering of records from western, central southern and eastern Mongolia. Axel Braunlich and Henry Mix recorded it for the first time for Mongolia at Khar Nuur on 29 May 1995. There is at least one more observation from the South Gobi province: Axel saw a flock of five immatures arriving from the NNW, landing in the Naadam stadium in Dalanzadgad on 14 June 2004.

Black-crowned Night Heron. South Gobi
aimag. June 2004. © Axel Braunlich

Many thanks go to Tumen and Dorj for providing data and the photos. Tand ikh bajarlalaa!

June 16, 2009

Whooper Swan Migration and Avian Influenza H5N1

Whooper Swans migrating through
Mongolian Altai. Mai 2006. © A. Braunlich

Evaluating the potential involvement of wild avifauna in the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (hereafter H5N1) requires detailed analyses of temporal and spatial relationships between wild bird movements and disease emergence. The death of wild swans (Cygnus spp.) has been the first indicator of the presence of H5N1 in various Asian and European countries; however their role in the geographic spread of the disease remains poorly understood. We marked 10 whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) with GPS transmitters in northeastern Mongolia during autumn 2006 and tracked their migratory movements in relation to H5N1 outbreaks. The prevalence of H5N1 outbreaks among poultry in eastern Asia during 2003–2007 peaked during winter, concurrent with whooper swan movements into regions of high poultry density. However outbreaks involving poultry were detected year round, indicating disease perpetuation independent of migratory waterbird presence. In contrast, H5N1 outbreaks involving whooper swans, as well as other migratory waterbirds that succumbed to the disease in eastern Asia, tended to occur during seasons (late spring and summer) and in habitats (areas of natural vegetation) where their potential for contact with poultry is very low to nonexistent. Given what is known about the susceptibility of swans to H5N1, and on the basis of the chronology and rates of whooper swan migration movements, we conclude that although there is broad spatial overlap between whooper swan distributions and H5N1 outbreak locations in eastern Asia, the likelihood of direct transmission between these groups is extremely low. Thus, our data support the hypothesis that swans are best viewed as sentinel species, and moreover, that in eastern Asia, it is most likely that their infections occurred through contact with asymptomatic migratory hosts (e.g., wild ducks) at or near their breeding grounds.

Abstract from: Newman SH, Iverson SA, Takekawa JY, Gilbert M, Prosser DJ, et al. (2009) Migration of Whooper Swans and Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus in Eastern Asia. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5729. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005729

To read the full article click here.
Himalayan Vultures released in Thailand

Dear all,

Ten Himalayan Vultures Gyps himalayensis were released on 9 April 2009 in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (HKK WS), world heritage site in western forest complex, Thailand after being rehabilitated to strength from starvation due to shortage of present-day wild carcases in the country.

Video clip of the pre-release condition
of the vulture in a flight enclosure.

Himalayan Vulture during release
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary,
9 April 2009. © A.Wuthipong Paphassorn.

The sanctuary is lined along the western route of the species in early winter when a number (10-30 individuals) of the vultures had reportedly entered the country in past 3 years. The western route is the major route of the invasion of the vulture in the country. The other route is north-eastern/eastern route.

The original localities of each vulture.
Map by Chatuphon Sawasdee.

At the time of release, 9 vultures were in second-year and one was third-year. A week after the release, 6 of them were seen in Thung Yai Naresuan WS, another national sanctuary west to the release site and close to the border of Myanmar. Other three vultures had been around a vulture restaurant used as post-release food supply at the release site then disappeared from the site three weeks after the release.

Each released vulture was marked with a green-coloured plastic tag and white letters on the patagium of right wing. The wing-tag reads; THA 17A (number). The number on each wing-tag runs from 06 to 15 (ten vultures).

Himalayan Vulture wing tag (underwing)
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary,
9 April 2009. © A.Wuthipong Paphassorn.

Report of sightings of the tagged vultures will be greatly appreciated. Please send date/locality and the vulture condition to either trogon (a) or c_wanlaya (a)

The rehabilitation and release of wild raptors is the cooperation of Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Wild Bird Rehab & Release Fund of Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and Kasetsart University Raptor Rehabilitation Unit (KURRU).


Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua
Assistant Professor of Veterinary Pathology
Kasetsart University, Chatuchak, Bangkok,

Note Himalayan Vultures are increasingly recorded from Mongolia. Please record any sighting, email me. Thanks! Axel

June 14, 2009

White-capped Redstart – another new species in Mongolia
by Tumendelger Humbaa

White-capped Redstart, May 2009,
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

I took these photos recently on 23 May 2009 in the Gegeet valley of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park area of Mongolia’s South Gobi Province. This area consists of high mountains of the Gobi Altai, about 2300 meters above see level. The area has small rivers.

At the time of the observation I was on a bird watching tour with Japanese birders Mima san and Tani san. While the others were preparing lunch, Mima san and I walked a little bit more. Before I used to travel many times with tourists around this area and we used to see many birds such as wagtails, Cinereous, Himalayan and Bearded Vultures, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Chukar Partridge, White-winged Snowfinch, buntings etc, and also Siberian Ibex, Argali (Wild Sheep) and sometimes even Grey Wolves.

Tumendelger Humbaa (left) with Japanese birders
Mima san and Tani san, with driver Ganaa and
guide Buyanaa. May 2009.

Mima san and I walked a little and had a rest and suddenly we saw a bird unknown to us. We took several photos. With the help of A Field Guide to the Birds of China we identified the bird as White-capped Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus! The bird was watched for some time and our team was able to take a number of photographs for documentation.

White-capped Redstart, May 2009,
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

White-capped Redstart, May 2009,
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

White-capped Redstart, May 2009,
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

White-capped Redstart, May 2009,
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
Photo © Tumendelger Humbaa

I think that five years ago I also saw this species in the same area. I was driving a car at that time across the Gegeet valley. I thought “what a colourful and big redstart” at that time. But I couldn’t take a picture, maybe I was mistaken.


Note: Thank you very much for this brilliant documentation Tumen! White-capped Redstart (sometimes also called White-capped Water-redstart) breeds in eastern Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, and Afghanistan, east through the Himalayas to central and north-eastern China, northern Myanmar and northern Indochina. The distance from the observation site in Mongolia to the next breeding areas in China to the south is c. 400 km. The species breeds among rapid mountain streams and is considered to be an altitudinal migrant or short-distance migrant. Gobi Gurvan Saikan National Park is a popular tourist destination in southern Mongolia, visited regularly by birdwatchers, both national and international. It might be possible that this species has been recorded in Mongolia before, but not reported. Unpublished reports on birds from Mongolia are always welcome. Please email me.

June 3, 2009


The Wildlife Conservation Society has been engaged in water bird surveys in Mongolia since 2005. During the summers of 2007 and 2008 part of this work has focused on the marking of birds to facilitate studies of migration and population characteristics. Birds are fitted with colour marks such as neck collars (geese and swans) and leg flags (waders) that can be easily identified by observers in the countries through which the birds migrate and spend the winter. By reporting observations of marked birds, observers help us piece together the bird’s life histories, their movements and needs and in so doing assist in our ability to conserve them.

How to report resightings?

If you observe a marked bird, please make a note of the sighting and record the date and location on which the observation was made. Neck collars are marked with a two or three digit code that enables us to identify the individual bird. Where possible please try to include this code as it increases the value of the observation. Observations can be reported by e‐mail in a variety of languages:

– In English to Martin Gilbert
– In Mongolian to Enkee Shiilegdamba

Also, if your bird continues to be seen in the same location, please continue to provide updates and let us know when the bird finally moves on as this will provide additional important information to help build a picture of the bird’s needs.

Bar-headed Goose, Koondhakulam Lake, India, March 2009.
© Arun Kumar

Where have birds been marked?

The birds have all been marked in the aimags (provinces) of Bulgan, Hovsgol and Arkhangai in northern Mongolia. Marking work takes place in partnership with the State Central Veterinary Laboratory, with the consent of the Ministry of Nature and Environment and Institute of Biology. Swans and geese are captured while moulting, either at night using boats and spotlights or by herding during the day. Shorebirds are caught while on migration using mist nets.

How are birds marked?

Birds have been marked using a number of techniques appropriate for use in each species. Each method has been well established and has been shown to have no impact on birds ability to feed, breed or behave normally. Methods used include:

1) neck collars

Coloured plastic neck collars have been widely used for studying the movement and life history of long necked waterfowl such as geese and swans. The WCS has been fitting coloured neck collars to four species in Mongolia:

Each collar is inscribed with a unique alphanumeric code comprising two or three digits depending on the size of the collar (examples are shown above). For Swan Geese and Bean Geese the collars comprise a number inscribed horizontally and a two digit number inscribed vertically; it is necessary to record both in order to identify the individual bird with certainty.

2) leg flags

Coloured plastic leg flags are widely used to study the migraFon of shorebirds. The technique uses coloured plastic tags applied to the right leg of the bird, which denotes the country, or region in which the bird was marked. The Australasian Wader Studies Group manages the scheme for the East Asian-Australasian flyway and has nominated the flag combination blue over green to indicate birds flagged in Mongolia.

leg-flagged Red-necked Stint.
© Nial Moores / Birds Korea

About the Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild lands through careful science, international conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks. These activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in sustainable interaction on both a local and a global scale. WCS is committed to this work because we believe it essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

For more information contact us at the Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10460, or visit us on the web at

June 2, 2009

Short-toed Eagle in the Gobi

Short-toed Eagle, Galba Gobi IBA, South Gobi,
May 2009. © B. Enkh-Orshikh/WSCC

B. Bayarjargal, wildlife biologist of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center (WSCC) in Mongolia, has sent several photos of Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus to Birding Mongolia. They were taken by his colleague B. Enkh-Orshikh in at c. 970 m altitude in Galba Gobi Important Bird Area in Mongolia’s South Gobi Province this May.

Short-toed Eagle, Galba Gobi IBA, South Gobi,
May 2009. © B. Enkh-Orshikh/WSCC

Short-toed Eagle, Galba Gobi IBA, South Gobi,
May 2009. © B. Enkh-Orshikh/WSCC

Short-toed Eagle, Galba Gobi IBA, South Gobi,
May 2009. © B. Enkh-Orshikh/WSCC

Short-toed Eagle was first discovered breeding in Mongolia by a Mongolian-German biological expedition in 2004 [see Stubbe, M., Stubbe, A., v. Wehrden, H., Batsajchan, N. & Samjaa, R. 2007. Biodiversity in space and time – towards a grid mapping for Mongolia. Erforsch. Biol. Res. Mongolei (Halle/Saale) 10: 391-405]. It breeds in riverine pediments (“sayr” in Mongolia) which are flanked by elm Ulmus trees.

Short-toed Eagle breeding habitat, Galba Gobi IBA,
May 2009. © B. Enkh-Orshikh/WSCC

So far it has been recorded in southern Mongolia only, where the species reaches its easternmost distribution world-wide.

More (and very good) photos of Short-toed Eagle, taken in 2004 in Galba Gobi (also called Galbyn Gobi) can be found at ORIENTAL BIRD IMAGES – the photo database of the Oriental Bird Club:

chick in nest
unfledged juvenile

unfledged juvenile
unfledged juvenile

adult in flight
adult in flight