1 Tahrcountry Musings: England - The Return of the Great Bustard

Friday, June 05, 2009

England - The Return of the Great Bustard

When there is heartwarming events regarding wildlife in any country it is celebration time for conservationists across the globe. Here is some excellent news from England.

My British contacts tell me that the globally-threatened Great Bustard (Otis tarda) has bred successfully in Britain for the first time since 1832. The last female with a chick was observed in Suffolk 177 years ago.The reintroduction programme was started 5 years back. Young birds from southern Russia were brought in for the programme. A female produced two chicks last week. The authorities are very secretive about the site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire for obvious reasons.

The bird is very charismatic. It finds a place on the coats of arms of Wiltshire and Cambridgeshire county councils and is on the badge of the Royal School of Artillery on Salisbury Plain.

Great Bustard Fact Sheet

The Great Bustard is the only member of the genus Otis and is in the bustard family. Even though the species is extinct in England Sizeable populations exist in Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Russia and Spain. It may look like a rosy picture but the species is declining due to habitat loss throughout its range. It is the national bird of Hungary. So Hungary is taking special interest for its conservation.
An adult male bird is 90-110 cm in length and weighs around10 to 15 kg. The heaviest recorded was 21 kg. The female is 30% smaller, 80 cm in length and weighs around 3.5-5 kg. Despite their large size the birds can fly at a high velocity (around 60 kilometer/hour)

The bird prefers open grassy lands and feeds on seeds, insects and other small creatures, including frogs.

Great Bustards usually live for around 10 years, but some have been known to live up to 15 years.

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