Bird Families

Desert scoop


Russian Ornithological Journal 2017, Volume 26, Express Issue 1457: 2411-2417

On the meeting of the Buckworm Otus brucei in the Altyn-Emel National Park and a new understanding of the distribution of the species in the north and north-east of the range

Oleg Vyacheslavovich Belyalov. Menzbirovsky Ornithological Society, Union for the Conservation of Birds of Kazakhstan. St. Ch. Valikhanov 25-5, Almaty, 050016, Republic of Kazakhstan. E-mail: [email protected]

Received June 9, 2017

Recently, I prepared an annotated list of 298 bird species found in the Altyn-Emel National Park, located in the Ili depression, 150 km northeast of Almaty (Belyalov 2016). The Buckworm has never been noted here, and the nearest meeting places are located 150 km to the west, in the floodplain of the Ili River, at the end of the Malay-Sary ridge (Gavrilov 2002). When visiting the territory of the national park from April 25 to June 1, 2017, I met these birds in a nesting environment. The mating was observed on the Mynbulak cardon, which is a small oasis on a desert plain, in the form of a small grove near a spring, where the main species are old willow and dzhida trees (loha). Nearby there is an abandoned garden with apple and apricot trees. The Ili River with floodplain thickets is located 15 km from the cordon.

For the first time, a characteristic voice similar to the accelerated distant "hooting" of an owl - "kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh." ”Was heard in the predawn twilight of May 31st. From a group of dzhida trees growing near the cordon, at 4:10 am, the voice of one bird was heard. Then the scoop flew over to the large willows growing over the spring, and the cry was heard in a radius of 20-50 m, moving in the grove. The bird responded to the recording of the voice of a dun-baked scoop made with a smartphone in the Syrdarya, although the sound was very weak. I flew up to 7 m, not being afraid of a beam of light from a pocket flashlight. At some point, a second bird appeared, which was photographed using a flash. The photograph shows that the ends of the tail feathers are noticeably bent and folded, which indicates that the bird is in the hollow. In the evening of that day, several screams were heard at 11 pm, and the next morning, June 1, at 4:30 am. Although no nest could be found, observations clearly indicate nesting. Among other birds, two pairs of Acridotheres tristis mynae constantly kept here, a brood of the great tit Parus major, and 5 southern nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos constantly sang.

Fig. 1. Cordon Mynbulak in the Altyn-Emel National Park. April 25, 2017.

Fig. 2. Buckworm Btee1 National Park Altyn-Emel, Mynbulak cordon. May 31, 2017. Photo by the author.

It was believed that in Kazakhstan, the nesting area of ​​the Buckworm was occupied only by the floodplain riparian forests of the Syrdarya River and the nearby areas of the Kyzylkum Desert (Gavrin 1962). Floodplain of the Syr Darya

is indicated as the northern border of the species distribution (Dement'ev 1936, Ivanov et al. 1953, Pukinsky 1977, 1993). To the east, nesting finds were known only in Kyrgyzstan (Yanushevich et al. 1960) and in Kashgaria (Stepanyan 2003). Therefore, it was quite unexpected that the species found nesting in the lower reaches of the Ili River, 600 km northeast of the Syrdarya habitats. Here, at the mouth of the Kurta River, on June 28, 1996, 4 fledglings were encountered (Berezovikov, Panov 1999), and in mid-July in the tugai near the village of Araltobe, a brood was recorded. At the end of May 1999, birds were observed walking in a Turan grove east of the village of Zhelturanga (Berezovikov et al. 1999). Here the brown scoop turned out to be quite common, and every year dozens of birdwatchers and the Kazakh guides accompanying them meet it in these places.The Buckworm is also not uncommon in the floodplain forest along the Ili River near the Akzhar village, where it was photographed on May 25, 2014, May 13 and 21, 2016 (A. Isabekov, G. Dyakin, M. Dyusebaeva, V. Fedorenko, www.birds .kz). The most eastern meeting to date was the meeting on May 24, 2002 in the floodplain of the Ili River at the end of the Malay-Sary ridge, where the voices of a couple are noted (Gavrilov 2002).

The appearance of the species in the lower reaches of the Ili River was considered as an expansion of the range to the east. This, in general, is understandable: the river valley and the delta have been studied very well - such well-known ornithologists as V.N.Shnitnikov, I.A. Dolgushin, B.K.Shtegman, V.A. Grachev and a lot others. But even in this case, it is possible to miss species, especially such secretive ones as the buckskin owl, which is more often noted by its voice. It is no coincidence that birds were discovered here with the appearance of Western ornithologists in these places, who often find birds by their voice, and then lure them into recording. In any case, one cannot be completely sure that the appearance of the species in question on the Ili River occurred only recently.

When faced with such cases, I always recall the remark of A.M. Cheltsov-Bebutov (1978), who quite rightly believed that such findings may not necessarily be a consequence of the expansion of the range, but simply are caused by the lack of data from specific places among ornithologists. The following facts lead me to this idea. For example, there is one known specimen of Buckworm, taken on April 14, 1905 by N.E. Nedzvetskiy in the vicinity of Alma-Ata (Gavrin 1962). Of course, it was considered as a bird, but it could have been a migratory bird as well. It is also worth noting that, in addition to the floodplain forests of the Syrdarya and the adjacent areas of the Kyzylkum, the probability of nesting of this scoop was considered in the Syrdarya Karatau and the ridges of the Western Tien Shan (Gavrin 1962, Gavrilov 1999, Mitropolsky, Rustamov 2007). These assumptions were made on the basis of two early meetings in 1939 and 1941.

The first of these encounters took place in the village of Novonikolaevka, in the foothills of the Talas Alatau, where the male was harvested on May 4, 1939 (Shevchenko 1948). The second sighting was recorded in the Ulken Burultau mountains, in the vicinity of Dzhambul (now Taraz), where on April 31, 1941, I.A. Dolgushin (1951) hunted a male.

Today, quite a lot of sightings of Buckworms from this area are known. After analyzing them, you can see that they all belong to the period of migration. In addition to the above-mentioned find in 1939, birds were noted twice more in the Aksu-Dzhabagly reserve: on March 17, 1971, they were caught in the village of Novonikolaevka and on September 6, 1972 - they were caught in the Kshi-Kaindy tract (Gubin 2012). Over the half-century period of observations at the Chokpak Pass, the Buckworm was observed and caught also only during migration. In the spring, one was caught on April 23, 1968, the second was ringed on April 12, 1975 (Gavrilov, Gistsov 1985), and three were caught on April 28 and May 4, 2005 (Gavrilov et al. 2016). In autumn, birds were recorded by voice on August 24-27 and September 9, 2002, and one was caught on October 4 (Gavrilov et al. 2002), and a total of 6 birds were caught here in September-October during the period from 1982 to 2016 (Gavrilov et al. 2016) ...

Despite the fact that Karatau and Western Tien Shan are very well studied by ornithologists (for example, in the reserve "Aksu-Dzhabagly" research has been carried out practically without interruption for more than 50 years - AF Kovshar, BM Gubin, A.A. Ivaschenko, E.S. Chalikova), no information about nesting has appeared from here. It is possible that in this case the same phenomenon takes place that was described by me in connection with the encounters at Chokpak during the migration period of the Whitethroat Sylvia mystacea, which, as it was believed, nested only on the Syr Darya, did not penetrate further east. But since there was one sighting, albeit unconfirmed, on the Ili River, I ventured to suggest that Whitethroats may nest somewhere east of Karatau (Belyalov 2004). Later this was confirmed - during the nesting time, the birds were found and photographed: on May 9, 2014 in the Chu river floodplain north-west of the Moyinkum village, the former Furmanovka (A. Kovalenko, and on May 26, 2014 in the Ili river floodplain, in the area Akzhar village (A. Isabekov, It is worth noting that the white-tailed warbler, along with the Buckworm, is included in the complex of species characteristic of the floodplain forests of the rivers of Central Asia.But if the first mentions of white-tailed warbler sightings east of the Syr Darya appeared only recently, the same cannot be said about the Buckworm - in the interval between the finds on the Syr Darya and Ili, nesting was known in the foothill valley of the Kyrgyz Alatau, where in the city of Frunze (now Bishkek) the bird was noted On April 16, 1950, and in 1957 and 1958, a couple lived in the city park (Yanushevich et al. 1960).

Later, data appeared that allowed A.N. Ostashchenko and B.K. Kumushaliyev (2004) to suggest the nesting of the buckskin owl in the Chuya valley. Here, on the border with Kazakhstan near the village of Tyulek, on April 26, 1971, a female was caught and on September 29, 1976 - a young female, and from April 1 to April 17, 2003, mating calls were heard in the floodplain of the Ak-Su River. Although all the findings are more consistent in time with the period of migration, nevertheless the probability of nesting here seems to be very high, and it is worth looking for nesting populations in the Chu River floodplain in Kazakhstani territory.

Due to the fact that an isolated area in Chinese Kashgaria (Sudilovskaya 1936, Stepanyan 2003), and this is south of the area under consideration, is included in the range of the Buckworm, it could not be ruled out that there are other, unknown nesting sites nearby, because the distribution of the species not always continuous and often represents a very intricate mosaic. For example, a brown scoop was photographed on May 23, 2013 northeast of the city of Karamay, on the plain south of Tar-Bagatay (Old Wolf, www. Birds of Xinjiang, China), and this is already Dzungaria, and the point is almost 800 km north of the Ili finds. -East. But the most important thing is that in a relatively recent work on the animals of Xinjiang (By Gao Xing-yi 2005), the Buckworm is indicated not only in Kashgaria, but also very close - in the Chinese part of the Ili Basin, beyond Zharkent, in the upper reaches of the Ili River.

This greatly changes the picture of our previous ideas about the range of the species. Since the brown scoop is already known in the lower and upper reaches of the Ili, it was logical to look for it in the middle reaches. The meeting described above in the Altyn-Emel National Park just partially closes this issue. But, apparently, this is not the last find. As you know, the largest tugai forests of the Ili depression in the early 1970s were flooded and ended up at the bottom of the Kapchagai reservoir. The habitats of the species are very well described in the essay of the monograph “Birds of Central Asia”: “Buckworms are found in rather similar habitats - in deciduous tree plantations with a well-pronounced edging effect. Belt plantings are preferred - river tugai, forest belts, mulberry plantings. Separate groups of old trees such as gardens and parks are also favorable, especially the presence of hollow trees or thickets with old nests of magpies. And during the nesting period they willingly settle in the anthropogenic landscape, not avoiding large cities ”(Mitropolsky, Rustamov 2007). Today, places suitable for nesting of the buckskin owl have been preserved mainly above the delta, upstream of the Ili River, starting from the Kalkan region, and this area is not so small, it is about 150 km to the border with China. There are also possible nesting sites for the species on the left bank.

zhye Kapchagaya, in the lower reaches of the Kaskelen, Talgar, Issyk, Turgen, Chilik and Charyn rivers, where areas of tugai forest have been preserved. There is a hope that special searches in the Ili Basin will confirm the assumptions and new nesting sites for this peculiar type of tugai forests will be discovered.

Belyalov O.V. 2004. About white-whiskers from Chokpak pass // Kaz. ornithol. Bulletin-2003: 189.

Belyalov O.V. 2016. Annotated list of birds of the Altyn-Emel National Park // Tr. State National Natural Park "Altyn-Emel". Almaty: 183-235.

Berezovikov N.N., Panov A.V. 1999. About the expansion of the range of the Buckworm (Otus brucei)

in South-East Kazakhstan // Ornitol. vestn. Tired of banners? You can always turn off ads.


The main color of adult males and females of the desert moth is pale gray or yellowish sandy.The upper and lower sides of the body are covered with narrow, but distinct longitudinal streaks of brown color, wider (up to 2.5 mm) on the chest. On the back of the head and shoulder parts there are light buffy or slightly whitish spots. Primary flight feathers are light brown, with an ocher tinge, with seven light spots on the outer webs. Uppertail with a reddish tinge, tail feathers are gray, with a blurred transverse pattern. The eyes are yellow, the beak and claws are dark-horny. It differs well from the common scoop by the complete absence of a rusty-red tint on the small wing coverts and by a general pale tone, without bright streaks. Young birds of a pale yellowish-gray tone, with small transverse streaks. In autumn, they differ from adults in weaker longitudinal streaks. Sizes: Males and females are probably of the same size. Wing 166-170 mm. Weight about 100 gr.


Breeds in the eastern Aral Sea region and along the Syrdarya valley. Repeated meetings of her in the spring and autumn in the area of ​​the village of Zhabagly and on the Chokpak pass (April 12 - May 7 and September 6 - October 24) confirm the assumption of her nesting in Karatau and Western Tien Shan. In 1996, nests with chicks were found in the lower reaches and the Ili delta, and in 1996-1999 at the mouth of the Kurta River and in the Zhelturanga grove in the Ili Valley. At the end of May, singing was recorded in the Ili valley near the Malay-Sary ridge.


The Desert Owl is a rare breeding migrant. Inhabits coastal forests, groves, gardens and forest belts. Appears in late March - April in spring. Breeds in separate pairs. The nest is located in the hollows of trees or in old magpie nests, once the desert scoop has nested even in the cavity of the building. Clutches of 4-6 eggs in second half of April - May. Only the female incubates the clutch, the male feeds her and takes part in raising the brood. Fledging chicks were observed from the end of June. Young birds caught in late July - early August have not yet changed their contour feathers. Autumn migration begins in September, the last birds flying away were recorded at the end of October. On the Chokpak Pass, one bird was ringed on October 24, 2000.

Sources of information

"Birds of Kazakhstan" volume 2. "Science". Alma-Ata, 1962.
E.I. Gavrilov. "Fauna and distribution of birds in Kazakhstan". Almaty, 1999.
Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005.