National Bird List
Submit Your Armenian Observations
Armenia and the entire Caucasus region have long received the attention of naturalists and ornithologists. Published materials on the country’s avifauna exist from late 1700s onwards. Early observations are rather superficial and opportunistic in character, while after mid 1800s the investigations gradually increased and resulted in the valuable avifaunistical data found in works by well known names such as F. De Filippi, Gustav Radde, K. P. Kessler, M. N. Bogdanov, L. F. Mlokosiewicz, K.A. Satunin, N. A. Bobrinsky, P. P. Sushkin and other visiting researchers. Ornithological studies rapidly accelerated during 1920s - 1950s, when exhaustive surveys covering the whole of the country produced numerous comprehensive ornithological datasets and papers, which were eventually summed up in three key books on the country's avifauna - Materials on ornithofauna of Armenian SSR [Ornis Armeniaca] (1942) by A.F. Lyaister & G.V. Sosnin, Identification Guide to the Birds of Armenian SSR (1947) by S.K. Dahl & G.V. Sosnin, and Fauna of Armenian SSR (1954) by S.K. Dahl. The latter work remains the core reference for every vertebrate zoologist working in the country.
During the subsequent decades various local and Russian zoologists continued bird research in Armenia with variable intensity. At that time studies were focused mostly on ecology and the distribution of particular groups or species, primarily those of practical value and positively or negatively affecting farming and the agricultural industries. Inclusive countrywide surveys of entire avifauna have apparently rarely been performed up to mid 1990s, or at least these are seldom found in published sources. During this period many taxa, including uncommon breeders and migrants, species with problematic field identification and/or unobtrusive habits, - were largely overlooked. This particularly applies to passerines, but also to migrant raptors, waders and gulls. As an illustration, the latest Armenian Red Data Book includes 'rare' species that are actually common and widespread throughout Armenia. This is of course is not bad in itself, but at the same time it misses real rarities or localised species, especially those breeding, that deserve special protective and conservation measures.
During 1995 within the framework of an international ornithological project, launched by an Armenian businessman from US, the late Mr Sarkis Acopian, several experienced observers from Russia and UK have been involved in Armenian bird surveys. The UK volunteers in particular came armed with the, at the time unfamiliar in Armenia, field technique of long range bird identification. During that year active countrywide investigations in cooperation with local researchers produced a number of discoveries and rapidly improved the understanding of the contemporary status and distribution of many species in the country. Unfortunately, subsequent years were followed again by a reduction in fruitful field observations.
However, with the first wave of regular visits by groups of western birders at the end of 1900s (see Trip Reports) new data, especially on breeding avifauna, have become available on a more regular basis. There have also been finds of new and unusual migrant and breeding species. Armenia has proved to be a rewarding birding destination, and the number of birders who plan a visit to the country is increasing annually. As elsewhere in the region, majority of their visits are understandably confined to late spring - early summer, when the highest diversity of birds can be found in the country, but, nevertheless, a significant number of valuable national records (and bird records in general) currently comes from the tourist circuit. The reason for this, regardless of existence of several state and non-governmental zoological and ornithological local institutions, is the unfortunate almost total lack of competent resident observers. This fact additionally limits the number of visiting tour operators, who prefer to co-operate with local guides.
We have maintained an Armenian bird records database since 1998. This is steadily growing based on our own observations, records provided by tour operators, individual visiting birders, as well as data collected by local ornithologists, zoologists, hunters, taxidermists. This information is carefully evaluated and eventually will be published as regular reports (of course, preserving all observers' credits). We would like to ask all birders visiting Armenia to submit their observations to our archive, or in case these have been published, please provide us with details of publication - in an electronic or hard copy format. We would be most grateful for your contribution!
Records of even common species are of great value, especially if these come from outside their known range or habitats, are related to unusual species behaviour or plumage. Particular attention should be paid to those denoted with (!) in the Checklist, as these are considered rarities and require full documentation of the sighting. Descriptions could be filled on this downloadable rarity form (31 KB) and emailed to us at aves(AT)armeniabirding.info. As yet there is no formal Rare Birds Committee in Armenia. In the Soviet era a rarity record would hardly ever be accepted and published without a supplied specimen or other hard evidence. Nowadays the country's ornithologists no longer collect birds to prove their unusual observations. But in the absence of a record evaluation committee and with increased opportunities for publicity, some ambiguous claims have already found their way into published scientific sources.
Fortunately, competent and experienced birders pay great attention and are often not indifferent to the value of their observations. We have decided to 'establish' an informal Armenian Rare Birds Committee, where claims can be assessed by suitable experts from within the West Palearctic birding community.
We would like to encourage observers to pay special attention to polytypic species encountered, some striking examples include various migrant forms of Yellow Wagtail complex, Common Whitethroat, Moustached and Reed Warblers, migrant and wintering forms of Merlin, Great Grey Shrike and Reed Bunting complexes, migrant and breeding forms of Stonechat complex (!) etc. This kind of data is particularly scarce, and any information would significantly add to the knowledge on Armenian avifauna.