One of the world’s heaviest birds, bustards are large, terrestrial Old World birds.
They are grassland birds and do not usually fly, though they are capable.
Classified in the family Otididae, there are 27 different bustard species in the world. Many species populations have declined, some have been reintroduced with success. Bustard info here.
As omnivores they have an expansive diet of seeds, locusts, reptiles, carrion, and more. With long, strong legs and big toes, they slowly walk across grass fields, feeding. They nest on the ground, and are known for elaborate mating dances.
I have seen the Kori Bustard in Africa numerous times, and also the Australian Bustard. In the same genus, Ardeotis, they look similar; though the Australian is considerably smaller.
There is no mistaking a bustard, there is no other grass bird this big.
The Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) is one of the largest species and occurs in many African countries, primarily southern and eastern Africa.
The male Kori stands 2-4 feet tall (61-91cm) and weighs 15-40 lbs (7-18kg).
There is a suspected decline of the species in Africa due to unregulated hunting, power line collisions, and loss of habitat. Kori info here.
On a different continent, we were lucky while driving back roads in Queensland to come upon the Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis). The grass was knee-high and they were several hundred feet away, hidden in it.
Also called brush turkey, the male was strutting around in a mating display, so we were thrilled. Australian bustard info here.
There was not much activity on this back road, and we probably would have missed them if we hadn’t been always and forever on the lookout for new birds.
Having experienced Kori Bustards in Africa, we knew right away what they were.
What a supreme delight to come upon these magnificent birds quietly cavorting, and nearly invisible to the rest of the world.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted