Scientific name: Sypheotides indicus
(Sypheotides indica*). Eupodotis indica (Miller,1782) now
Gender agreement of species name follows David and Gosselin, 2002)
Local names: Hindi: Leekh or
Likh, Chhota charat, tuqdar; Gujarat:
Khar mor; Kutch: Tiloor;
Madhya Pradesh: Khar teetar, Kharmor;
West Bengal: Chhota dahar, Likh;
Tamil Nadu: Warragu kozhi; Andhra Pradesh:
Nela nemali; Kerala: Chatta kozhi;
Karnataka: Kannoul; Sindh: Kharmur
Status: Globally Endangered
The Lesser Florican 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. In bustards, the females are
usually smaller than males while the opposite is true for floricans. Generally
cryptically coloured, adult male floricans assume dark and complex plumage in
the breeding season. Bustards spend most of the time on the ground but will
fly powerfully on broad wings. They subsist on invertebrates and vegetable
matter. Male bustards have spectacular mating displays at leks (mating
arenas). All bustard species occurring in India face extinction threats due to
habitat decline and hunting pressure.
The Lesser Florican is a monotypic
species endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It is the only member of the genus
Male Lesser Florican
by Ramki Sreenivasan
Description: A domestic hen-sized bustard (46-51 cm), males being
smaller than females. In the field, the bird appears slim-necked with longish
bill and legs. The breeding male has three pairs of black tufts or
head-plumes, black head, neck and underparts with a white collar across the
upper mantle and white wing-coverts. Females and immature are sandy-buff with
black crown stripes and dark stripe from the front to below the eye. Males in
non-breeding plumage are similar to females.
Call: Usually quiet, but can make frog-like
croaks and short whistles.
spectacular nuptial display
Images: Dhritiman Mukherjee (L); Ramki Sreenivasan (R)
Occurrence: Previously widespread and
regular across most of lowland India except the north-east and the Brahmaputra
valley [see map], the Lesser Florican is now restricted to small breeding
patches in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
In winter it is known to disperse to dry, grassy areas throughout much of
India, mainly to the south and east of the breeding grounds. These movements
still remain poorly understood. Outside India, there are records from the
Nepal terai and from the Mekran coast and the Sind area in Pakistan.
Recent observations from areas marked in red
Population: Birdlife International estimates the global population at
2,200 and declining based on 1994 data. The Indian population was earlier
estimated at 4,374 birds based on 1982-1989 data. Population declines have
primarily been triggered by rapid decline in the preferred grassland habitat,
hunting pressure, spread of invasive Prosopis species and change in
rainfall patterns. Population densities are known to be correlated to rainfall
patterns and it is postulated that the species may be susceptible to
extinction in the event of severe and prolonged drought.
Habitat: The Lesser Florican inhabits grasslands,
areas with scattered bushes, cultivated tracts, open fields and grassland
habitats within forest plantations. It seems to prefer dry grassy areas with
low grazing pressure. The species shows strong breeding site-fidelity amongst
males. In winter the species is known to also use lightly wooded country.
in habitat by Mohanram Kemparaju
Food: Omnivorous. Feeds on insects, lizards,
frogs, plus shoots, leaves, herbs and berries.
Breeding: Breeds from July to September. The
males fly out by end of September leaving the females behind till
December/January. Males moult out of their non-breeding plumage in June/July
and display (often from an elevated patch) from the onset of the monsoon rains
till the end of September. They operate a competitive mating display system
called a lek in which no pair-bond is formed. Males meet at a selected
place or arena. Each occupy and defend a small territory in the arena in which
they put on extravagant displays consisting of constantly jumping up above
cover - "even up to 500 times in a single day"
[Salim Ali - Birds of India].
Nests are a simple depression in the ground in long grass. The average clutch
consists of 3-4 green eggs (with a dash of black and white) and the incubation
period is usually about 21 days.
Conservation status: Globally Endangered "because it has a very small,
declining population, primarily a result of loss and degradation of its dry
grassland habitat. The rate of decline is predicted to increase in the near
future as pressure on the remaining grasslands intensifies." 
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 two Lesser Florican sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh: Sailana
Male by Navendu
References and sources:
BirdLife International (2001) Threatened
birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data
Book. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
BirdLife International 2008. Sypheotides
indicus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1
BirdLife International 2001. Lesser Florican
Sypheotides indica. Pp. 1368-1382. In Threatened birds of Asia: The BirdLife
International Red Data book. Cambridge: BirdLife International.
4. Sankaran, R. & A.R. Rahmani. 1986. The Lesser Florican: Annual Report 2,
1985-1986. BNHS, Bombay.
5. Islam, M. Z. and Rahmani, A. R. (2002) Threatened Birds of India. Buceros
Vol. 7, No. 1 & 2, 2002. Compiled from Threatened Birds of Asia. Birdlife
International Red Data Book (2001). Cambridge, U.K.: BirdLife International.
6. The distribution and status of the lesser florican Sypheotides indica (J.F.
Miller) in the Indian subcontinent; Sankaran R.; Rahmani A. R.;
Ganguli-Lachungpa U. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society ISSN
Monitoring and Nesting Sites of Lesser Floricans Indra
R. Gadhvi (pdf).
Need to start Project Bustards (pdf);
Prepared by Asad R. Rahmani, Director, BNHS
9. "The Fifty Rarest Birds of the World", by Dr Mark Cocker, of the
International Council for Bird Preservation (Image).
10. Lesser Florican -
BirdLife Species Factsheet
11. Rasmussen P.C. & Anderton J.C. Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide.
12. John Gould's illustration from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eupodotis_indica.jpg