Here are some of the birds that I encountered on my trip through Tajikistan. To find out more about the country and its wildlife switch to my other chapter: Wildlife in the Darwaz Mountains of Tajikistan.

The view form my hotel in Dushanbe

(Corvus frugilegus)
Eurasian Jackdaw
(Corvus monedula)

I observed Jackdaws and Rooks within the same flocks.

Laughing Dove
(Streptopelia senegalensis)
Palm- oder Senegaltaube 

Maybe the best (nicest) place for birding in Dushanbe is the Botanical Garden.

(Columba palumbus casiotis)

The subspecies ‚casiotis‘ has a cinnamon-buff patch on the neck-sides.

Eurasian Blackbird
(Turdus merula)
Common Myna
(Acridotheres tristis)
Common Myna
(Acridotheres tristis)

This specimen from the Botanical Garden in Dushanbe had a reddish iris, which does not coincide with the drawing in „Birds of Central Asia“.

Common Magpie
(Pica pica)
European Greenfinch
(Carduelis chloris)
Eurasian Collared Dove
(Streptopelia decaocto)
Carrion Crow
(Corvus corone)

I was surprised to see not only this species, but also the Hooded Crow (see below) within Dushanbe. Apparently the Hooded Crow occurs in Tajikistan only during the winter time.

at Komsomol Lake, Dushanbe

With its concrete banks, it’s not really worth it to go there for birding. We thought we could go for a stroll around it, but it is not made for it. We still found some birds:

Hooded Crow
(Corvus cornix)
(Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax carbo)

Note the white on the neck, which indicates that this specimen was already in breeding plumage (1st of March). In Central Europe, eggs are laid mainly from the end of April to June. – Probably unusual is the black spot on the base of the lower mandible.

Masked Wagtail
(Motacilla alba personata)
Feral pigeon

The feral pigeon is the domestic form of the Rock Dove. It is widespread in Central Asia, and occurs in a wide variety of plumages. This one is very similar to a Rock Dove.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
(Passer montanus)
Green Sandpiper
(Tringa ochropus)

We saw this species in the nearby Gissar Canal.

On the way to Darwaz:

Common Buzzard
Buteo buteo

There are five Buteo species in Central Asia. I believe that this one was a Common Buzzard, although the carpal joint spot is pretty pronounced as in an Upland Buzzard.

Spanish Sparrow
(Passer hispaniolensis)
Eurasian Collared Dove
(Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Moorhen
(Gallinula chloropus)
Corn Bunting
(Emberiza calandra)
Corn Bunting: Note the „pinkish-yellow“ coloured lower mandible. The line that separates upper and lower mandibles is a straight line. Usually this line is convex.
Pine Bunting
Emberiza leucocephalos
Crested Lark
 (Galerida cristata)
Black-throated Thrush, male
(Turdus atrogularis)

Darwaz birds

See-see Partridge
(Ammoperdix griseogularis)
Persisches Sandhuhn

My first bird encounter in the Darwaz region: When I ran into a flock of these partridges I knew it must be something else. I had expected Chukars. See-see Partridges are indeed smaller. And they are mousy and at the same time so beautiful. I knew right away that it would be THE bird of the trip for me.

See-see Partridge
(Ammoperdix griseogularis)
Persisches Sandhuhn

We saw them at the southern tip of the Darwaz region, close to the Panj River. There the mountains level off into a more steppe-like rolling landscape.

(Alectoris chukar)

And this is it: the Chukar, omnipresent in the Darwaz Mountains. The favourite bird of pupils from the Zigar school, which we interviewt. Why? „They taste so good.“ The locals also keep them as pets.

Chukar: We had so many startling them up in front of us. This is the only one I got in flight. It quite nicely shows the tail, which is basically grey with rufous corners.

Of the six Chukar subspecies in Central Asia this could be „falki“. In general it is said: „Subspecies are darker and browner in more humid areas and greyer and paler in more arid areas.“ The specimens from Darwaz are greyer.

Bearded Vulture
(Gypaetus barbatus)

Everywhere I see it, I am fascinated by this species again and again: the size, the colours, the wedge-shaped tail, the beard. Some English-speaking birders still call it „Lammergeier“. In German we switched to Bartgeier (which translates to „Beard Vulture“), because the old name is not appropriate (80 % of its diet is bones) and got the bird a bad reputation. Actually „Lammergeier“ is a misspelling. It should be: „Lämmergeier“ (Lambs Vulture). Maybe just switch to „Bearded Vulture“! 😉

Kestrel, male
(Falco tuninculus)

…ok., this is not a record shot, but you can clearly see: light-coloured head, back and inner wing; darker primaries and a greyish tail.

Rock Dove
(Columa livia)
Common Raven
(Corvus corax)
Streaked Laughingthrush
(Garrulax lineatus)

This is the only species of Laughingthrush in Tajikistan. It is everywhere around houses and orchards in the Darwaz region, but very wary.

Streaked Laughingthrush

Laughingthrushes are birds of the tropics and have their greatest variety in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. So to see this species in Tajikistan was like meeting a messenger from the tropics.

Winter Wren
(Troglodytes troglodytes)

There are five races of Winter Wrens in Central Asia. In this specimen from the Zigar Valley the brown eyestripe is almost non-existent. The pale supercilium does not extent to the base of the beak.

Eurasian Blackbird
(Turdus merula)

I saw this specimen in the rain near our guesthouse. I was wondering if it had a silverish lateral crown-stripe and forehead. It reminded me of the Grey-winged Blackbird, that I know from Northern India. But after having investigated my images, I believe it’s just a few feathers that have become wet. 😉

Eurasian Blackbird, female
Black-throated Accentor
Prunella atrogularis
(Fringilla coelebs)
(Fringilla montifringilla)
Rock Bunting
(Emberiza cia)

The cheek and median crown stripe of this specimen are greyish as in the European race. In male Rock Buntings from Central Asia these parts are usually white.

Rock Bunting?

This one puzzled me even more: Again the white on the head is missing and the breast is streaked as in the Striolated Bunting. In female Rock Buntings only breast-sides and flanks come with streaks.

Himalayan Griffon, adult
(Gyps himalayensis)

… identified by its mainly creamy-white underwing coverts. In contrast …

Eurasian Griffon
(Gyps fulvus)

… the Eurasian Griffon has warm light brown wing-coverts.

Two griffons at their nest
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
(Accipiter nisus)
Golden Eagle, juvenile
(Aquila chrysaetos)

A Golden Eagle is a Golden Eagle, is a Golden Eagle. Have one like this above you, and you can call it a day. Hard to top …

Golden Eagle

… actually, when I was with my buddy Luke in the Ziggar Valley, huddled to the ground to wait for some ibexes to come down the slope, this young eagle landed not too far from us in a tree … What a treat!

Yellow-billed Chough
(Pyrrhocorax graculus)
A flock of Yellow-billed Choughs and a Golden Eagle
Red-billed Chough
(Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

I could confirm this species only once.

Carrion Crow
(Corvus corone)
Turkestan Tit
 (Parus major bokharensis)
Yellow-breasted Tit
(Cyanistes cyanus flavipectus)

This subspecies of the Azure Tit is a very lovely bird indeed!

(Tichodroma muraria)

Sometimes hard to spot, but once in a while seen along the Panj River road.

Eastern Rock Nuthatch
(Sitta tephronota)

Omnipresent in the Darwaz Mountains: Its song could often be heard.

Blue Whistling Thrush
(Myophonus caeruleus)
Black-throated Thrush, female
(Turdus atrogularis)
Mistle Thrush
(Turdus viscivorus)
 (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)
Eversmann’s Redstart
(Phoenicurus erythronotus)

The little pleasures of a hunter and gatherer: There are eight species of „Redstarts“ in Central Asia: Blue-fronted-, Blue-capped-, Black-, Common-, Güldenstädt’s, White-capped-, Plumbeous- and Eversmann’s. The Eversmann’s Redstart was the last one missing on my list. Now this list is complete! 🙂

Species close to water

Common Teal 
(Anas crecca)

I saw just one flock of these on the Panj River and a Brown Dipper. I had expected more species on the Panj.

Little Forktail
(Enicurus scouleri)

Note the white toes. Standing all day in cold mountains streams, I am sure there is not much blood running through these little feet.

Little Forktail, courting
(Enicurus scouleri)

Another difference in the courting behaviour of humans and birds: Males of Homo sapiens tend to suck in their stomachs and bare their breasts. The Little Forktail apparently likes to show off with puffing out its back. I tried to impress my wife the other day with the Little Forktail style … with limited success …

White-capped Redstart
(Chaimarrornis leucocephalus)
White-capped Redstart
Plumbeous Water Redstart, female
(Rhyacornis fuliginosa)
Plumbeous Water Redstart, male
(Rhyacornis fuliginosa)
Masked Wagtail
Motacilla alba personata

I hope this is not blasphemous: The Masked Wagtail seems to have adjusted to the Islamic dress code. Its black hood resembles a hidschab, a veil worn by some Muslim women.

White-throated Dipper
(Cinclus cinclus)
Eurasische Wasseramsel
White-throated Dipper in flight
Brown Dipper
 (Cinclus pallasii)

Still a mystery in Biogeography – Syntopie: the joint occurrence of two closely related species in the same habitat at the same time. We had White-throated and Brown Dipper together at two locations: at Zigar Valley and at Chorchaman Park. The question remains: How can the two species coexist without hybridizing or outcompeting each other?

Brown Dipper

Both species are remarkable swimmers and divers. And they do that without having webbing between their toes – as this fellow seems to demonstrate.


Ayé, Raffael; Schweizer, Manuel; Roth, Tobias: Birds of Central Asia. Helm Field Guides. Christopher Helm, London, 2014.