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Houbara Bustard Fact File

Chlamydotis undulata

Credit: Frank Vassen, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

1.5-3kg

(3.25-6.5lbs)

Length

65-75cm

(26-30in)

Lifespan

Wild 15 years

Captive 32 years

Diet

Omnivore

Seeds, Shoots, Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The Houbara bustard is found across parts of Africa and Asia. A distinct subspecies is also present on the Canary Islands which is highly threatened.

These animals mostly live on the ground where they will spend their day seeking out seeds, shoots and insects.

Breeding utilizes a lek system. Males will gather at a site and perform elaborate displays in an attempt to impress a female and gain breeding rights with her. Following mating he has no further involvement with the young.

These animals are increasingly threatened with hunting, habitat loss and secondary poisoning all contributing to their decline.

Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds.

Appearance

What does the Houbara bustard look like?

The Houbara bustard is a tall bird with a body which sits atop two long legs. Their coloration is cryptic to help camouflage them with their habitat. Across the back they have tan plumage which is patterned with darker spots. The belly is white.

Males sport plumes on the neck which can be used during displays to try and impress the female.

At the end of the body is a long, slender tail.

An average Houbara bustard will measure 65-75cm (26-30in) long with a weight of between 1.5 and 3kg (3.25-6.5lbs). It has a wingspan of 115-150cm (45-59in) across. Males tend to be larger than females.

Diet

What does the Houbara bustard eat?


The Houbara bustard is considered an omnivore. They will feed on seeds, shoots, insects and small animals such as reptiles.

These birds will seldom drink water instead obtaining most of their needs from their food.

Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata

Credit: Frank Vassen, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the Houbara bustard?

The Houbara bustard is found across parts of Africa and Europe. Here they can be found in the following countries – Algeria; Egypt; Libya; Malta; Mauritania; Morocco; Spain (Canary Is.); Sudan; Tunisia; Western Sahara.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Houbara bustard live in?

These animals are found in grasslands and desert habitats. They are well adapted to arid areas where trees are scarce.

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Reproduction

How does the Houbara bustard produce its young?

Egg laying will take place from March to June.

Males will gather at a courtship arena to mate. He will trot around the breeding ground with a ruff and crest of feathers raised. During the display they create their booming call.

A male may mate with multiple partners during the breeding season.


2-4 eggs are deposited in a scrape in the ground. Often the nest site is located near a bush to provide shade from the heat and some protection against predators. Their eggs are colored a pale olive-grey with mottled brown across it. Eggs are incubated for 23 days.

Within a few hours of the chicks hatching they will begin to move around with their mother.

The chicks can take their first flight by 30 days old but remain with their mother for up to three months.

Sexual maturity is reached between two and three years old.

Behavior

What does the Houbara bustard do with its day?

These birds are able to fly well but it is more common to see them on the ground where they perform much of their foraging.

They are active during the day. Much of their time is spent in search of food.

Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata

Credit: Frank Vassen, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Houbara bustard?

Populations of the Houbara bustard are said to be in decline across their range. Estimates place their population at between 13,000 and 33,000 individuals. Recent indications are suggesting that the decrease may have stopped as a result of conservation efforts.

A subspecies is found exclusively on the Canary Islands with an estimated population of just 400 pairs. They are under threat from sand extraction and tourist development.

In parts of their range this species is threatened by hunting which may be performed using falcons. Emerging technologies such as firearms and other technology have increased the threat.

Other factors such as agricultural expansion, road construction and tourism development are causing widespread habitat loss.

Control programs for insects such as locusts can lead to poisoning.

A captive breeding program for this species has been initiated and is helping to restore this species in their habitat.

Quick facts

This species was first described for modern science in 1784.

They may also be known as the African houbara.

The MacQueen's of Asian Houbara was previously listead as a subspecies of this species but has since been elevated to full species status.

Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata

Credit: Len Worthington, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Mindat. 2021. Chlamydotis undulata. [online] Available at: <https://www.mindat.org/taxon-2474864.html> [Accessed 25 November 2021].

BirdLife International. 2016. Chlamydotis undulataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22728245A90341807. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22728245A90341807.en. Downloaded on 25 November 2021.

Ec.europa.eu. 2021. Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata – Environment – European Commission. [online] Available at: <https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/wildbirds/threatened/c/chlamydotis_undulata_en.htm> [Accessed 25 November 2021].

ECWP – Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation. 2021. North African species – ECWP – Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation. [online] Available at: <http://www.ecwp.org/the-houbara-bustard/north-african-species/> [Accessed 25 November 2021].

vogelwarte.ch. 2021. African Houbara | Swiss Ornithological Institute. [online] Available at: <https://www.vogelwarte.ch/en/birds/birds-of-switzerland/houbara-bustard> [Accessed 25 November 2021].

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