Wintering birds of Siberian taiga forest in Mongolia

Mongolia has relatively low forest cover with just over 8 percent of the country (12.9 million hectares) being forest-covered area. This includes 10.5 million hectares of coniferous and hardwood forests and 2.4 million hectares of Saxaul forest (Haloxylon ammodendron), a shrub or small tree native to the Gobi desert and with a height ranging from 1.5-12m.

The coniferous forest consisting mostly of Siberian larch, Siberian pine, and Scotch pine mixed with deciduous trees such as poplar and birch is located in northern Mongolia as being part of the southern end of the Siberian taiga forest.

For the last couple of years, my winter birding confined mostly to the southern Khentii mountain, the northern outskirts of Ulaanbaatar city (the capital). Silas Olofson, a Faroese birder who resided in Mongolia for 3 years and I had countless birding trips to the forest since 2018 and Andreas Buchheim aka Abu (a German ornithologist) who lives in Mongolia part time joined us whenever he is back in the country.

Very few and toughest species remain in the taiga when winter comes and most of the summer breeders head south for warmer climates. About half of the mammal species hibernate and those who endure the cold temperature face food shortages throughout the winter because of heavy snow cover and low food abundance. Days are short and the active hours of the animals diminish accordingly. So in short, it's a tough life to survive the brutal winter in the taiga.

For these reasons birding in the taiga forest in winter demands patience and persistence. Sometimes it takes hours of walking without seeing anything or just a few Willow Tits and Eurasian Nuthatches here and there. Plus walking in the thick snow layer is exhausting and time consuming. However, walking in the quiet and silent forest covered in deep snow is a relaxation of one mind, a peace that cannot be found anywhere.

During the summer, large numbers of summer visitors arrive only for breeding and spend the short Northern Hemisphere summer in the taiga before returning to warmer regions. 

The photos below are the result of numerous short expeditions to the forest and many hours of walking and searching. I am thankful for Abu generously sharing his deep knowledge of ornithology and bird identification with me.

The following collection is a fraction of wintering species in Mongolia. In this blog, I included only species that are found in the taiga forest. ENJOY!

Male Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Black-billed Capercaillie (Tetrao urogalloides)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Black-billed Capercaillie (Tetrao urogalloides)  © Otgonbayar Baatargal

Male Black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix ussuriensis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa lapponica)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Black-throated Thrush (Turdus atrogularis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Black-throated Thrush (Turdus atrogularis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Red-throated Thrush (Turdus ruficollis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Red-throated Thrush (Turdus ruficollis)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus)  © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Brandt's Jay (Garrulus glandarius brandtii) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus jessoensis) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Eurasian three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Black Woodpecker © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Long-tailed Rosefinch (Carpodacus sibiricus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Azure Tit (Cyanistes cyanus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus leucogaster) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male meadow Bunting (Emberiza cioides) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Male Baikal Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula cineracea) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult male Mealy Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Female Mealy Redpoll (Acanthis flammea holboellii) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Mealy Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult Arctic Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni exilipes) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

2cy Arctic Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni exilipes) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Great Tit (Parus major) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Coal Tit  (Parus ater) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familaris daurica) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult male Pine Grosbeak © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult female Pine Grosbeak © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

1st cy Pine Grosbeak © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

1st cy male Pine Grosbeak © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult male Red Crossbill © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Adult female Red Crossbill © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

1st cy male Red Crossbill © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

1st cy female Two-barred Crossbill © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea asiatica) © Bolormunkh Erdenekhuu