|Photo by Csaba Barkoczi (Animal News)|
Indian bustard (en); abetarda-da-Índia (pt); outarde à tête noire (fr); avutarda india (es); hindutrappe (de)
Previously widespread across India and Pakistan, this species is now restricted to scattered populations in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, in India; and in Sind, Pakistan.
This large bustard is sexually dimorphic, with the smaller females measuring 90-95 cm in length and weighing 3,5-7 kg, while the males are a20-a25 cm long and weigh 8-14,5 kg.
The Indian bustard is found in arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered low scrubs and bushes in open, stony and frequently slightly rolling semi-desert country. They can also be found in arable land.
They are omnivorous opportunist, taking advantage of seasonally abundant food items. These include invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, locusts, crickets, mole-crickets, mantids, termite alates, large ants, caterpillars, centipedes, spiders and worms. Also various small vertebrates including lizards and snakes, frogs, birds and eggs, mice, rats, gerbils and other small mammals. Their diet also includes a large vegetable portion, namely seeds, shoots, leaves, herbs, wild berries, oil seeds, cultivated grains and pods of legumes.
Indian bustards can breed all year round, but mostly in March-September. The nest is a depression on the ground, either on open ground or hidden in stony or scrubby areas. The female lays a single eggs, which she incubates alone for 27-40 days. The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and can feed by themselves after 1 week, but are only able to maintain sustained flight after 7 months and remain with their mother for up to 1 year.
IUCN status - CR (Critically endangered)
This species has a large breeding range, but this range contracted by 90% during the last century. At present, the global population is estimated at just 50-250 individuals and it declined by over 80% over the last 3 generations. This decline was mostly caused by hunting for sport and food, as well as egg collection and habitat loss due to agricultural development. Livestock grazing and mining are further threats to this species. The Indian bustard is legally protected in India and several protected areas have been specifically established for the species, but some poaching still takes place.