Great Indian Bustard

~ presented by Birds of India

~ by Sumit Sen

'Bird of the Month'

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired
Illustration: Henrik Gronvold from E. C. S. Baker's Game-birds of India, Burma & Ceylon

Habitat Management at Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra


Scientific name: Ardeotis nigriceps
                        Synonyms: Choriotis nigriceps (Ardeotis has priority; genus sometimes merged with
                        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.[56]

? Nikhil Devasar
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.

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired
Description by Finn in Game Birds of India

? Sumit Sen
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 females. 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 various factors.

 ? Sumit Sen
Range Map
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 problems."[51]

Ecology:
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 from food.

? Sumit Sen
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.

? M Kemparaju
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 development". [53]

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 Pradesh (Rollapadu)

? J Van Gruisen
Male by Joanna Van Gruisen
 

References and sources:
1. Rasmussen, P. C. & Anderton, J. C. (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vols. 1 and 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. ISBN vols 1&2: 84-87334-66-0.
2. Ali, S. A. and S. D. Ripley (1969) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Oxford University Press, Bombay. Vol.3
ISBN: 019 565936 8.
3. Hume AO; The Game Birds of India. No. 2. (reprint from the 'Asian'.). Addenda et corringenda. - edited by A.O. Hume, Stray Feathers, 9:1,2&3: 198 - 209, 1880
4. Aitken AB; The Great Indian Bustard Eupodotis edwardsi, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 21:4: 1334 , 1912.
5. Baker ECS; The game birds of India, Burma and Ceylon. Part VI, JBNHS, 21:2: 303 - 337, 1912.
6. Simcox AHA; The Great Indian Bustard Eupodotis edwardsi, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 22:1: 201 , 1913.
7. Allen GO; Great Indian Bustard in Mirzapur District, U.P, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 26:2: 673 - , 1919.
8. Ripley SD; Vanishing and extinct bird species of India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 50:4: 902 - 906, 1952.
9. Dharmakumarsinhji KS; The Great Indian Bustard, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 51:3: 740 - , 1953.
10. Dharmakumarsinhji RS; Ecological study of the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) Vigors, Kathiawar Peninsula, Western India, Journal of the Zoological Society of India, 8:2: 140 - 152, 1957.
11. Ali S; Great Indian Bustard, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 2:10: 12 - 13, 1962.
12. Dharmakumarsinhji RS; Display, posturing and behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors), Maryland Birdlife, 11, 1962.
13. Lavkumar KS; The Great Indian Bustard, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 3:1: 3 - 4, 1963.
14. Ali S; The Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors), IUCN Eleventh Technical Meeting , II:No. 18: 58 - 62, 1970.
15. Gupta PD; The Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors), a vanishing species in India, and some suggestions for its preservation, IUCN Eleventh Technical Meeting , 2:18: 63 - 67, 1970.
16. Great Indian Bustard, Cheetal, 21:2&3: 48 - , 1979.
17. Kulkarni BS; The Great Indian Bustard, Hornbill, 1979:January-March: 20 - 21, 1979.
18. Ali SM; The great indian bustard, Tigerpaper, 8:4: 9 - 11, 1980.
19. Sharma AK; Great indian bustards, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 20:10: 4 - , 1980.
20. Ali SM; The Great Indian Bustard, Tigerpaper, 8:4: 9 - 11, 1981.
21. Bustards: Back from the brink?, World Wildlife Fund-India Quarterly, 4:1: 7 - , 1983.
22. Rahmani AR; Return of the Great Indian Bustard, Hornbill, 1984:3: 7 - 14, 1984.
23. Manakadan R; The ecology of the Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps habitat, Maryland Birdlife, 1985.
24. Rahmani AR; The Great Indian Bustard, Sanctuary Asia, 5:2: 114 - , 1985.
25. Rahmani AR;Manakadan R; Present status of the Great Indian Bustard, Bustard Studies, 3:: 123 - 131, 1985
26. Rahmani, A. S., R. Manakadan;  Movement and flock composition of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) at Nanaj, Solapur District, Maharashtra, India., Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 83: 17 - 31, 1986.
27. Manakadan R;Rahmani AR; Study of Ecology of Certain Endangered Species of Wildlife and Their Habitats. The Great Indian Bustard. Annual Report No. 3 1985-86, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, 1986.
28. Rahmani AR;Manakadan R; Movement and flock composition of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) at Nanaj, Solapur District, Maharashtra, India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 83:1: 17 - 31, 1986.
29. Rahmani, A. R., R. Manakadan; Interspecific behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors), Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 84: 317 - 331, 1987.
30. Rahmani, A; Protection for the Great Indian Bustard., Oryx, 21: 174 - 179, 1987.
31. Rahmani AR; The Great Indian Bustard, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 24, 1987.
32. Chandra J; The Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary at Karera, Zoos' Print, 3:6: 9 - 13, 1988.
33. Rahmani AR; The conservation of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) in the Karera Bustard Sanctuary, Biological Conservation, 46:2: 135 - 144, 1988.
34. Rahmani AR;Manakadan R; The Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican in Tamil Nadu, Blackbuck, 4:3: 3 - 8, 1988.
35. Manakadan, R., R. Rahmani; Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, with special reference to the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)., Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 86: 368 - 380, 1989.
36. Rahmani AR, Manakadan R; Return of the Great Indian Bustard in Maharashtra, Journal of Ecological Society, 2: 19 - 29, 1989.
37. Rahmani AR; Watching bustards in India, Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 10:November: 10 - 13, 1989.
38. Rahmani AR; The Great Indian Bustard: Final report, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, 1989.
39. Rahmani, A. R., R. Manakadan; The past and present distribution of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) in India., Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 87: 175 - 194, 1990.
40. Rahmani AR; Manakadan R; The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) in Andhra Pradesh, Mayura, 7&8:1-4: 20 - 23, 1990.
41. Rahmani AR; Population increase of the Great Indian Bustard in Karera Bustard Sanctuary, Tigerpaper, 17:3: 14 - 15, 1990.
42. Rahmani AR; Manakadan R; The past and present distribution of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) in India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 87:2: 175 - 194, 1990.
43. Bhushan, B., A. R. Rahmani; Food and feeding behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)., Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 89: 27 - 40, 1992.
44. Narayan G; Decline in Great Indian Bustard population in Madhya Pradesh, Hornbill, 1993:4: 31 - 32, 1993.
45. Rahmani AR; Project Bustard: Last chance to save the Great Indian Bustard, Ornithological Society of India Bangalore, 73 - 75, 1993.
46. Rao RJ; Conservation status of Great Indian Bustard in Madhya Pradesh, India, Journal of Ecological Society, 7: 29 - 30, 1994.
47. Rahmani AR; Status and conservation of the Great Indian Bustard in the Thar Desert, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 35:4: 64 - 65, 1995.
48. Rahmani AR; Strategies for long-term conservation of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps in India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 93:3: 442 - 458, 1996.
49. Vyas R; Bustards in decline, Sanctuary Asia, 18:5: 105, 1998.
50. Rahmani AR; The Godawan saga: Great Indian Bustards in decline, Sanctuary Asia, 21:1: 24 - 29, 2001.
51. BirdLife International (2009) Species factsheet: Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps.
52. BirdLife International Ardeotis nigriceps in: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1.
53. BirdLife International 2003. Ardeotis nigriceps (Great Indian Bustard). In Threatened birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data book. Cambridge: BirdLife International.
54. Wikipedia: Great Indian Bustard
55. Rahmani AR; The deteriorating status of the Indian Bustard. OBC Bulletin 35, June 2002
56. The Internet Bird Collection: Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps)
57. Envis Centre on Faunal Diversity: Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)
58. Rahmani AR; Need to Start Project Bustards; BNHS (2006)
59. Finn, F. (1916) Game Birds of India & Asia. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co.


© Sumit Sen 2010
Images copyright
© Nikhil Devasar, Joanna Van Gruisen, Mohanram Kemparaju & Sumit Sen

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