Repetek in the central part of the East Karakum, Turkmenistan
19. april 2013
The coolest bird in the Desert...
Pander's Ground Jay is one of the most sought-after birds in Central Asia, and when you have seen it its easy to understand why its so desired. Its charming! Either approachable or very shy.
To find it you need the right habitat - sand dunes and sparsely vegetation. Usually found singly or in pairs on ground where it feeds on lizards, beetles and other goodies.
This bird were observed in Turkmenistan where its still fairly common in the right habitat, whereas the PGJ in Kazakhstan ssp iliensis has become EXTREMLY rare.
Recently we spend three days searching south of Lake Balkash in Kazakhstan - prime habitats and on former places where we have seen it. BUT - no birds were found... There were some tracks (one of the most important ways finding PGJ), but - despite hours of searching we never found them. Later I talked with a Kazakh biologist who spends his time studying the Kazakh PGJ, and he had found only ONE nest this year (2013)and had been on ten expeditions since January; so surely it looks very dark for this fantastic bird. Until 1991 it was fairly common in the region, but the population have decreased - I would even use the expression, that the population have crashed. The iliensis-population in Kazakhstan might be extinct very soon and those danes that have birded with me in Kazakhstan might be one of the last westernes that have seen the Kazakh PGJ.
In Tukmenistan (and Uzbekistan) its luckily not that bleak - and its still possible to get excellent views being on the right spot at the right time. Its a resident - tough bird, and usually it moves around after the breeding season.
Ill go and look for it again later in autumn and winter 2013/2014 - both in Kazakhstan and in Turkmenistan (participating in updating the IBAs in Central Asia).
I can surely recommand every birder to visit the Central Asian deserts - its not solely PGJ that is attractive; the desert is a wonderful and extremely interesting habitat.