Tuesday, 14 January 2014

African houbara

Chlamydotis undulata

Photo by Andrey Kovalenko (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
houbara bustard (en); abetarda-moura (pt); outarde houbara (fr); avutarda hubara (es); kragentrappe (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Otididae

This species occurs in two separate sub-species. C. u fuertaventurae is restricted to the islands of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Lobos and La Graciosa in the Canary islands, while C. u. undulata is found in North Africa, from Morocco and Mauritania to Egypt and possibly northern Sudan.

These birds are 55-65 cm long and have a wingspan of 135-170 cm. The females are smaller, weighing 1-1,7 kg while the males weigh 1,2-2,4 kg.

The houbara bustard is mostly found in sandy and stony arid areas with no trees and sparse scrub and herb cover, including hot and temperate deserts, dry grasslands and, to a lesser extent, pastures.

They are omnivorous, taking seeds and other plant material, as well as beetles and other invertebrates and even small lizards.

Houbara bustards breed in February-May. The males make a flamboyant display to attract the female and have no further part in the breeding process after mating. The female lays 2-3 eggs in a small crape on the ground, which she incubates alone for 21-22 days. The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and are able to feed themselves, following the mother around for protection.

IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimate at 13.000-33.000 individuals. In the period between 1984 and 2004 the population was estimated to have declined by 35%, but the rate of decline has now slowed down or even been reversed thanks to conservation efforts in North Africa. The main threat to houbara bustards is the high level of hunting, especially by falconers, but other threats include habitat loss and degradation and, in some areas, collisions with power lines. Captive breeding programmes in North Africa have successfully halted population declines in some areas and even lead to some population increases.

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