Some people are drawn to Mongolia for its history, some for its rich cultural traditions. But for many, it is the country´s abundant biodiversity that makes Mongolia truly unique among world destinations. Home to a huge variety of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and plants, the country lays claim to some impressive facts about its flora and fauna. Growing up to three meters in length the taimen, the largest freshwater fish makes its home in Mongolia´s pristine rivers and lakes. The country´s vast eastern grasslands are the habitat of one of the largest gazelle populations in the world, with herds stretching as far as the eye can see. Thirty-five rare and endangered mammals live throughout the country including the Gobi bear, snow leopard, ibex, etc. Birders from around the world are drawn to Mongolia to spot exotic species such as white-naped cranes, more than thirty species of raptor, and the world´s largest grouse. Hundreds of edible and medicinal plants flourish in Mongolia including wild blueberries, seebuckthorn, blackberries, etc. With facts like these, it is no surprise that Mongolia has become a dream destination for naturalists, anglers, hunters, and hikers alike.
To date, more than 434 species of birds have been recorded in Mongolia. Of them, more than 250 species are migratory, traveling to and from Mongolia for its excellent breeding and feeding grounds from as far afield as India, Africa, Japan, Australia, and the Mediterranean. Among both migratory and non-migratory birds found in the country, dozens are classified as rare or exotic. In short, Mongolia is a birders paradise.
Species endemic to Mongolia and the wider Central Asian region include the Altai Snowcock (Tetraogallus altaica) and Kozlov´s Accentor (Prunella kozlovi), and a number of world and regionally endangered species such as White-naped Crane (Grus vipio), Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus), Hooded Crane (Grus monacha), Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucos), Great Bustard (Otus tarda), Eurasian Black or Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Dalmation Pelican (Pelicanus crispus), Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia),Relict Gull (Larus relictus), Swan Goose (Cygnopsis cygnoides), and Bearded Vulture or Lammergeyer (Gypaetus barbatus).
To protect its rich avian diversity, Mongolia has prioritized the protection of bird habitats, particularly wetland and riparian zones. Gun Galuut Nature Reserve outside Ulaanbaatar is home to nine species listed in IUCN´s "World Red List" of rare and endangered birds and one of the easiest places to see the rare White-naped Crane of which there are only 5000 left in the world. The largest raptor in Mongolia, the Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), whose wing-span can reach up to 3 meters, is also found here, as are two out of four of Mongolia´s endangeredeagle species, the Steppe Eagle (Aguila nipalensis) and the Golden Eagle (Aguila chrysaetos). But visitors need not travel to specially-designated areas to spot birds of all sizes and colors. Any trip to the open steppes will reveal Mongolia´s wealth of winged wildlife, which is easily observed in the vast, open landscapes.