Otididae

Southern Black Korhaan Afrotis afra ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Otididae are a family that includes bustards, floricans and korhaans. They are large, terrestrial birds living mainly in dry grassland areas and on the steppes of the Old World. They range in length from 40cm to 150cm. They are omnivorous and opportunistic, eating leaves, buds, seeds, fruit, small vertebrates, and invertebrates.

They are all fairly large with the two largest species, the Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori and the Great Bustard Otis tarda, being frequently cited as the world’s heaviest flying birds. In both the largest species, large males exceed a weight of 20kg and weigh around 13.5 kg on average and can attain a total length of 150cm. The smallest species is the Little Brown Bustard Eupodotis humilis, which is around 40cm long and weighs around 600g on average. In most bustards, males are substantially larger than females, often about 30% longer and sometimes more than twice the weight. They are among the most sexually dimorphic groups of birds. In only the floricans is the sexual dimorphism reverse, with the adult female being slightly larger and heavier than the male.

Their wings have 10 primaries and 16–24 secondary feathers. There are 18–20 feathers in the tail. The plumage is predominantly cryptic.

Bustards are omnivorous, feeding principally on seeds and invertebrates. They make their nests on the ground, making their eggs and offspring often very vulnerable to predation. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. Most prefer to run or walk over flying. They have long broad wings with ‘fingered’ wingtips, and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays, such as inflating throat sacs or elevating elaborate feathered crests. The female lays three to five dark, speckled eggs in a scrape in the ground, and incubates them alone.

Bustards are gregarious outside the breeding season, but are very wary and difficult to approach in the open habitats they prefer.

According to the IOC there are 26 extant species of Bustards, Korhaans and Floricans in the familly Otididae; they are:

Great Bustard Otis tarda

Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs
Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori
Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps
Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata
Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii

Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii
Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami
Heuglin’s Bustard Neotis heuglinii
Nubian Bustard Neotis nuba

White-bellied Bustard Eupodotis senegalensis
Blue Korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens
Karoo Korhaan Eupodotis vigorsii
Rüppell’s Korhaan Eupodotis rueppelii
Little Brown Bustard Eupodotis humilis

Savile’s Bustard Lophotis savilei
Buff-crested Bustard Lophotis gindiana
Red-crested Korhaan Lophotis ruficrista

Southern Black Korhaan Afrotis afra
Northern Black Korhaan Afrotis afraoides

Black-bellied Bustard Lissotis melanogaster
Hartlaub’s Bustard Lissotis hartlaubii

Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis

Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus

Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 26

Useful Reading
  • Propagation of the Houbara Bustard

    by Michel Saint Jalme And Yolanda Van Heezik published by National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development, Saudi Arabia ISBN: 0710305184 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • Great Bustard Group

    Website
    The Great Bustard Project - re-introduction into the UK

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