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Australian Bustard Fact File

Appearance

The Australian bustard is a tall bird with a similar appearance to a stork. Their long neck, head and underside feature white feathers. Both males and females have a crown of black feathers. They can be told apart as males have a black breast band which is missing in females.


During breeding season another prominent feature that differentiates the male is the white breast sac which may reach almost to the ground in some individuals.

Across the back they have chestnut colored feathers with some fine barring. The wing coverts feature a pattern of black and white feathers. Their wings are broad and in flight their legs trail past the end of the short tail.


Their coloration means they when they sit on the ground they blend in well with the soil.


Their long legs are yellow or cream in color. The bustard has three toes facing forward but lacks the back toe seen in many similar species.


They are one of the largest flying birds in Australia and stand between 0.8 and 1.3m (2.6-4.3ft) tall with a wingspan up to 2m (6.6ft) across. Males are significantly larger than females. Their average weigh is 6.2kg (13.7lbs) while females only reach 3.2kg (7lbs).

Diet

The Australian bustard is an omnivore. Their diet includes seeds, leaves, buds, fruit, invertebrates, small reptiles, birds and mammals.


They have been known to follow smoke to fire affected areas and eat the animals which are escaping the flames. Large numbers will also gather in areas undergoing a mouse plague.

Australian Bustard

Scientific Name

Ardeotis australis

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

Male

6.2kg (13.7lbs)

Female

3.2kg (7lbs)

Length

0.8-1.3m (2.6-4.3ft)

Wingspan

2m (6.6ft)

Lifespan

25 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Range

Australian bustards are native to Australia along with a population in the South of Papua both in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.


Their range covers Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They are more abundant in the North of their range.

Habitat

Naturally they make their home in grasslands, woodland and shrublands. Following bushfires they move in to more densely vegetated areas which have been opened up by the fire.


With the expansion of human habitations they can be found in man-made environments which are similar to grasslands including golf courses and cropping areas.

Australian Bustard

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Reproduction

Breeding occurs once a year from October to December and typically follows rains.


Males engage in an elaborate courtship display using the inflated, feathered breast sac. They will raise their tail and strut around while making a loud, booming noise.


A group of males will gather at a display site to perform their courtship displays to a number of females. In some drier portions of their range these animals may not use the lek system or may be monogamous.

The female deposits one or two eggs which is colored olive-green on to bare ground which may sheltered by a small bush. Typically they select a nest site which provides a good view of potential predators. She will carry out the 23 day incubation here.


At hatching the chicks are patterned with a mixture of light and dark stripes.

Behavior

These animals are nomadic and move around throughout the year spurred by the availability of food.


Previously they are recorded to occur in groups of up to thirty but it is now uncommon for them to be seen in groups of more than two.

When threatened they will make a sharp barking noise.

Australian Bustard

Predators and Threats

Invasive species such as foxes will hunt the Australian bustard.


Humans have affected their population through hunting in large numbers and habitat destruction primarily from livestock such as cattle and sheep. Disturbances by these species and humans will cause them to abandon their nest.


When threatened they will walk slowly away unless the prey continues to chase them in which case they will take flight.


Another threat is secondary poisoning of rabbits which affects the bird when they eat this prey item.


In some small parts of their range they have benefited from areas being cleared and turned in to farmland.

Quick facts

Australian bustards are also known as plain turkeys or bush turkey though this name is also used for a number of other species.


They are the only member of the bustard family that lives in Australia. This is a wide spread group of birds found in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Photo Gallery

Australian Bustard
Australian Bustard

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Photo Credits

Top and Middle One

Copyright. The Animal Facts.


Middle Two

By Petr Baum – https://www.biolib.cz/en/taxonimage/id61088/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14453422


Photo Gallery

Left

Copyright. The Animal Facts


Right

By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86319758

References

Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.


Currey, K. and Parish, S., 2006. Junior Encyclopedia Of Australian Wildlife. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.


Worrell, E., 1970. Australian Birds and Mammals, Australia, Angus & Robertson Ltd.


Harrington, J., 2020. Australian Bustard. [online] The Australian Museum. Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/australian-bustard/> [Accessed 3 November 2020].


Biodiversity of the Western Volcanic Plains. 2020. Australian Bustard. [online] Available at: <https://bwvp.ecolinc.vic.edu.au/fieldguide/fauna/australian-bustard#details> [Accessed 3 November 2020].


Cavershamwildlife.com.au. 2020. Australian Bustard » Caversham Wildlife Park. [online] Available at: <https://cavershamwildlife.com.au/our-animals/show/australian-bustard/> [Accessed 3 November 2020].


2020. Australian Bustard Ardeotis Australis. [ebook] Adelaide: Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges, pp.1-2. Available at: <http://file:///C:/Users/User/Documents/The%20Animal%20Facts/news/November%202020/3%20Nov%20-%20Giant%20Panda%20Halloween/australian-bustard-bio-region-fact.pdf> [Accessed 3 November 2020].


Birdlife.org.au. 2020. Australian Bustard | Birdlife Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/australian-bustard> [Accessed 3 November 2020].


BirdLife International. 2016. Ardeotis australis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22691940A93330335. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22691940A93330335.en. Downloaded on 03 November 2020.


Australian Reptile Park – Wildlife Park Sydney & Animal Encounters Australia. 2020. Australian Bustard Habitat, Diet & Reproduction – NSW. [online] Available at: <https://reptilepark.com.au/animals/birds/australian-bustard/> [Accessed 3 November 2020].

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