Scientific name: Ardeotis nigriceps
Synonyms: Choriotis nigriceps (Ardeotis has priority; genus sometimes
Otis); Eupodotis edwardsii
(Gray); Otis edwardaii; Otis nigriceps (Vigors,1831)
Other common name: Great Indian Bustard
Local names: Hindi: Sohan, Gughunbher,
Hukna; Gujarat: Ghorar, Ghorad;
Kutch: Gudad; Sindh:
Gurahna, Garumba; Rajasthan: Godawan,
Nahar Goonjni, Gunjam, Gujaran; Punjab:
Tuqdar, Gurayin, Madhya Pradesh: Sonchirya,
Hank, Hookan, Serailu, Bherar; Maharashtra:
Maldhok; Tamil Nadu: Kanal mayil;
Andhra Pradesh: Battameka pakshi;
Karnataka: Yerreladdu, Arlkujina hakki.
Status: Globally Critically Endangered
Indian postage stamp
The Indian Bustard is a member of the bustard
family. Bustards are large, stout, long-necked and long-legged birds that
inhabit open spaces like grasslands, shrub country and deserts. They are
sexually dimorphic and sizes of the sexes differ with the females being
usually smaller than males. Bustards spend most of the time on the ground but
will fly powerfully on broad wings. They subsist on invertebrates and
vegetable matter. All bustard species occurring in India face extinction threats due to
habitat decline and hunting pressure.
The Indian Bustard is a monotypic species
endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It forms a superspecies with Ardeotis
australis which occurs in Australia.
Male by Nikhil Devasar
Description: A very large (92-122 cm) and heavy bustard. Males standing
a metre in height and being bigger than females. In the field, a huge, brown
and white ground bird, with grey head, long neck and long bare legs, giving it
an ostrich like appearance. Upper plumage rufous, finely penciled with black;
crown black and crested contrasting with the pale head and neck. The neck
feathers are somewhat lengthened and hackled in front with a black band on
lower breast. Belly white. Females are about 1/3rd smaller, duller, with
thinner neck and lack a prominent black band on breast. In flight, white
patches near wing tips are pointers.
Description by Finn in
Game Birds of India
Adult by Sumit Sen
Habits: The Indian Bustard
is usually found singly or in twos or threes, more rarely in flocks numbering
over four and up to a dozen or more. They keep mainly to open dry country and very shy and wary, running
at great speed to hide under bush cover. They squat and rest at times
under the shade of trees. The males are magnificent birds, often standing four
feet in height, and they have a peculiar method, in the breeding-season
especially, of inflating their white throats, and strutting about to attract
The birds will often associate with
blackbuck and chinkara in order to profit from their vigilance.
Call: Usually quiet, the male periodically makes a deep resonant
moaning booming call that can be heard for nearly 500m. Another call is a bark
or bellow and is said to be made when the bird is alarmed.
Occurrence: Previously widespread and
regular across most of the dry western plains of the Indian subcontinent [see map], the
Indian Bustard is now restricted to small breeding
patches in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh
and Karnataka in India. Some may still survive in Sind, Pakistan.
Rajasthan, with over 50% of the entire global population, is the stronghold of
the species. The species is known to make local nomadic movements in response to
Recent observations from areas marked in red
Population: Birdlife International estimates the global population at
less than 999 birds [Update 27/4/13: Current
estimates by Birdlife Intl. indicate a population of <300 in 2008]. Population declines have
primarily been triggered by "habitat loss, modification and fragmentation as a
result of widespread agricultural development and land-use change,
particularly conversion of large areas to intensive crop cultivation,
irrigation schemes (to convert areas to rice paddy), increased pesticide usage
and livestock-grazing, and high levels of disturbance. Inappropriate protected
area management and increasing instances of nest-trampling are further
Habitat: The Indian Bustard is a bird of sparse
grassland with scattered low scrub, bushes and cultivation in open, stony and
frequently slightly rolling semi-desert country. In some parts of the bird's
range, the habitat is entirely dry and it is assumed that they obtain moisture
Female by Sumit Sen
Food: Omnivorous. Feeds on insects, rodents, lizards,
frogs, plus seeds, shoots, leaves, herbs, wild berries, oil seeds, cultivated
grains and pods of legumes.
Breeding: Breeds primarily from March to September. The
cock acquires a harem consisting of four to a dozen females. The fluffy white
feathers of the male are inflated and displayed at this time. During courtship
display, which is on usually slightly elevated open ground, the male inflates
the gular sac, inflating it so that a large wobbly bag appears to hang down
from the neck. The tail is held cocked up over the body.
Displaying male by Mohanram Kemparaju
Nests are a simple depression in the ground in long grass. The average clutch
consists of 1 egg and the incubation period is not known but thought to be >27
days (Nanaj, Rahmani A.R.).
Conservation status: Globally Endangered "because of its very small,
declining population, a result of hunting and continuing agricultural
Conservation measures: The species is protected under Schedule I of the
Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and its hunting or trapping is prohibited in
India. There are Indian sanctuaries in Rajasthan (Desert National Park,
Sonkhaliya and Sarson); Gujarat (Bhatiya, Naliya); Madhya Pradesh (Ghatigaon,
Karera); Maharashtra (Bustard Sanctuary); Karnata (Rannibennur) and Andhra
Joanna Van Gruisen
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