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Great Indian bustard

The great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) or Indian bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Once common on the dry plains of the Indian subcontinent, as few as 250 individuals were estimated in 2011 to survive and the species is critically endangered by hunting and loss of its habitat, which consists of large expanses of dry grassland and scrub.[2] These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.

Description[edit]

The great Indian bustard is a large ground bird with a height of about a metre. It is unmistakable with its black cap contrasting with the pale head and neck. The body is brownish with a black patch spotted in white. The male is deep sandy buff coloured and during the breeding season has a black breast band. The crown of the head is black and crested and is puffed up by displaying males. In the female which is smaller than the male, the head and neck are not pure white and the breast band is either rudimentary, broken or absent.[3]

Measurements
All populations[3][4]
LengthMale black symbol.svg1,000–1,070 mm (39.4–42.1 in)
Female black symbol.svg760–830 mm (29.9–32.7 in)
Culmen85–95 mm (3.3–3.7 in)
WingMale black symbol.svg614–762 mm (24.2–30.0 in)
Female black symbol.svg460–540 mm (18.1–21.3 in)
TailMale black symbol.svg330–380 mm (13.0–15.0 in)
Female black symbol.svg245–270 mm (9.6–10.6 in)
HeadMale black symbol.svg170–180 mm (6.7–7.1 in)
Female black symbol.svg145–155 mm (5.7–6.1 in)
WeightMale black symbol.svg8–14.5 kg (17.6–32.0 lb)
Female black symbol.svg2.5–6.75 kg (5.5–14.9 lb)
FootMale black symbol.svg275–300 mm (10.8–11.8 in)
Female black symbol.svg225–245 mm (8.9–9.6 in)

Among bustards, this species is smaller only than the Kori bustard and the great bustard in size. It is also the largest land bird in its native range. The great Indian bustard stands at about 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, having a somewhat long neck and quite long legs.[4] The female as in most members of the bustard family are typically considerably smaller.[5]

Males have a well-developed gular pouch which is inflated when calling during display and helps produce the deep resonant calls.[4][6]

Abnormally leucistic or near albino birds have been reported.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

View of habitat (Desert National Park)
Illustration by Henrik Grönvold from E. C. Stuart Baker's Game-birds of India, Burma and Ceylon

This species was formerly widespread in India and Pakistan.[5] The bustard is critically endangered in Pakistan primarily due to lack of protection and rampant hunting.[8] A few birds have been detected in a September 2013 survey of the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan.[9]

In India, the bird was historically found in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Today the bustard is restricted to isolated pockets in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (shared with Pakistan).[10]

Great Indian bustards make local movements but these are not well understood although it is known that populations disperse after the monsoons.[11] Males are said to be solitary during the breeding season but form small flocks in winter. Males may however distribute themselves close together[12] and like other bustards they are believed to use a mating system that has been termed as an "exploded or dispersed lek".[13] The male is polygamous.[14]

The habitat where it is most often found is arid and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, tall grass interspersed with cultivation. It avoids irrigated areas.[3] The major areas where they are known to breed are in central and western India and eastern Pakistan. The dry semi-desert regions where it was found in parts of Rajasthan has been altered by irrigation canals that have transformed the region into an intensively farmed area.[15]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

The great Indian bustard is omnivorous. Apparently, insects, consisting mainly of Orthoptera, but also beetles, particularly Mylabris sp.[5]) are preferred in the diet. Alternatively, they will take grass seeds, berries (largely of the genera Ziziphus and Eruca), rodents and reptiles (in Rajasthan they are known to take Uromastyx hardwickii[16]). In cultivated areas, they feed on crops such as exposed groundnut, millets and pods of legumes.[17]

Mylabris pustulata, one of the beetles in the diet

They drink water if it is available and will sometimes sit down to drink or suck water followed by raising up their heads at an angle.[18] When threatened, hens are said to carry young chicks under the wing.[19]

Breeds during March to September during which time the inflated fluffy white feathers of the male are inflated and displayed. Territorial fights between males may involve strutting next to each other, leaping against each other with legs against each other and landing down to lock the opponents head under their neck.[20] During courtship display, the male inflates the gular sac which opens under the tongue, inflating it so that a large wobbly bag appears to hang down from the neck. The tail is held cocked up over the body. The male also raises the tail and folds it on its back. The male periodically produces a resonant deep, booming call that may be heard for nearly 500m.[3][4] The female lays a single egg in an unlined scrape on the ground.[5][21] Only the females are involved in incubation and care of the young. The eggs are at risk of destruction from other animals particularly ungulates and crows.[4] Females may use a distraction display that involves flying zigzag with dangling legs.[4]

Status[edit]

From Thomas Hardwicke's Illustrations of Indian Zoology (1830–1835)

In 2011 Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered, mainly because it has been exirpated from 90% of its former range and the population was estimated at perhaps fewer than 250 individuals in 2008.[1] The main threats are hunting and habitat loss. In the past they were heavily hunted for their meat and for sport and, today, poaching of the species may continue. In some places such as Rajasthan, increased irrigation by the Indira Gandhi canal have led to increased agriculture and the altered habitat has led to the disappearance of the species from these regions.[22] Some populations migrate into Pakistan where hunting pressure is high.[15] The bird is found in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states of India. Desert National Park, near Jaisalmer and coastal grasslands of the Abdasa and Mandvi talukas of Kutch District of Gujarat support some populations.[23]Ghatigaon and Karera sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh once held sizeable populations.[24] Other sanctuaries with the species include Naliya in Kutch,[25] Karera Wildlife Sanctuary in Shivpuri district;Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary near Nannaj,[26] 18 km from Solapur in Maharashtra, Shrigonda taluka in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, near Nagpur and near Warora in Chandrapur district in Maharashtra and Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, 45 km from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.[27] At Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary, habitat changes have affected the populations of blackbuck and bustards. In the 1950s the scrub forest was replaced with Eucalyptus plantations. These helped wildlife when the trees were short but after their extensive growth they made the adjoining grassland less favourable for bustards.[28][29]

A 2011 study of the variability in mitochondrial DNA (hypervariable control region II and cytochrome b) in 63 samples from 5 Indian states found very low genetic diversity suggesting a historical population reduction. The study suggested a population reduction or near extinction estimated about 20-40,000 years ago.[30] Attempts to breed them in captivity in the 1970s failed.[31] The species is considered as "critically endangered" by the IUCN Red data list.[1]

Conservation[edit]

The rapid reduction of the population of India's bustards, their endangered status and the decline of grasslands led the Ministry of Environment and Forests to prepare a species recovery programs in 2012 for three species of bustard; the great Indian bustard, the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) and the lesser florican (Sypheotides indicus). These programs remain to be finalised and executed by the state wildlife departments.[32]

In the interim, the state of Rajasthan initiated its own "Project Great Indian Bustard", on World Environment Day 2013, at an initial cost of Rs 4.5 crore in 2013 for identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas, followed by an expenditure of Rs 8 crore in the future to identify and provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.[32]

species recovery plan also demands for ex situ conservation measures.[33]

In culture[edit]

Eggs of the species in comparison to the smaller ones of the lesser florican

The Mughal emperor Babur noted that "[while] the flesh of the leg of some fowls, and of the breast of others is excellent; the flesh of every part of the Kharchal is delicious".[34][35] The great Indian bustard was however a cryptic and wary bird making it a challenge for sportsmen, who had to stalk carefully (sometimes using covered bullock carts[36]) to get within range.[37] British soldiers in India considered it a delicacy and the species was among the top game-birds. William Henry Sykes notes that they were common in the Deccan region where a "gentleman" had shot a thousand birds.[38][39] (E C Stuart Baker however notes that this may have been an exaggeration- ...we must remember that those were the days when tigers averaged twelve feet...)[5] Jerdon noted that subadults and females had tastier flesh than males while Salim Ali notes that feeding on Mylabris tainted their flesh.[4][40][41]

Tribal Bhils are claimed to have used a technique for trapping females that involves setting twigs on fire around the nest containing an egg or chick. The female was then said to run to the nest and singe its wings upon which the tribals captured it.[42] Other trapping methods involving the use of nooses are described by Hume in his "Game Birds of India".[6] The invention of the Jeep changed the method of hunting and it became extremely easy for hunters to chase bustards down in their open semi-desert habitats.[4]

The name hoom is used in parts of Maharashtra and is derived from the low booming call. The sharp barking alarm call leads to its name of hookna in some parts of northern India.[5] It is known in some other parts as Gaganbher or Gurayin for the resemblance of other calls to thunder or the roar of a tiger.[43]

When the "national bird" of India was under consideration, the great Indian bustard was a proposed candidate (strongly supported by the Indian ornithologist Salim Ali[44][45]), but dropped in favour of the Indian peafowl with at least one reason being the potential for being misspelt.[46][47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2013). "Ardeotis nigriceps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Big birds lose out in a crowded world. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. News Release: June 7, 2011. Downloaded June 8, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Rasmussen PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 148. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ali, S & S Dillon Ripley (1980). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 188–191. ISBN 0-19-565935-X. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Baker, ECS (1929). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Volume 6 (2 ed.). pp. 64–66. 
  6. ^ a b Hume AO & CHT Marshall (1879). Game birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon 1. pp. 7–11. 
  7. ^ Vijayarajji (1926). "An albino bustard (Eupoditis edwarsi)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 31 (2): 526. 
  8. ^ Khan, Aleem Ahmed; Khaliq, Imran; Choudhry, Muhammad Jamshed Iqbal; Farooq, Amjad & Hussain, Nazim (25 Oct 2008). "Status, threats and conservation of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) in Pakistan (1079)". Current Science 95 (8): 1079–1082. Retrieved 13 Jan 2014. 
  9. ^ "Houbara Foundation conducts survey for Great Indian Bustard". Pakistan Today. 17 Sep 2013. Retrieved 13 Jan 2014. 
  10. ^ Dutta, Sutirtha; Rahmani, A. R. & Jhala, Y. V. (24 Nov 2010). "Running out of time? The great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps — status, viability, and conservation strategies". European Journal of Wildlife Research. doi:10.1007/s10344-010-0472-z. Retrieved 13 Jan 2014. 
  11. ^ Rahmani, A. R. and Manakadan, R. (1986). "Movement and flock composition of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) at Nanaj, Solapur district, Maharashtra, India". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 83 (1): 17–31. 
  12. ^ Baker, EC Stuart (1921). Game birds of India, Burma and Ceylon. Volume 2. Bombay Natural History Society. pp. 164–185. 
  13. ^ Morales MB; F Jiguet & B Arroyo (2001). "Exploded leks: What bustards can teach us". Ardeola 48 (1): 85–98. 
  14. ^ Rahmani, A.R. (1991). "Flocking behaviour of a resident population of the great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)". Revue d'Ecologie (Terre et la Vie) 46 (1): 53–64. 
  15. ^ a b Khan, AA; I Khaliq; M J I Choudhry, A Farooq & N Hussain (2008). "Status, threats and conservation of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) in Pakistan". Current Science 95 (8): 1079–1082. 
  16. ^ Gupta PD (1975). "Stomach contents of the Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 71 (2): 303–304. 
  17. ^ Bhushan B & AR Rahmani (1992). "Food and feeding behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89 (1): 27–40. 
  18. ^ Hallager, SL (1994). "Drinking methods in two species of bustards". Wilson Bull. 106 (4): 763–764. hdl:10088/4338. 
  19. ^ Falzone, Celia K. (1992). "First Observations of Chick Carrying Behavior by the Buff-Crested Bustard". The Wilson Bulletin 104 (1): 190–192. 
  20. ^ Joshua, J. Gokula, V. Sunderraj, S. F. W. (2005). "Territorial fighting behaviour of Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 102 (1): 114. 
  21. ^ Hume, AO (1890). The nests and eggs of the birds of India 3. R H Porter. pp. 375–378. 
  22. ^ Rahmani AR & R.G. Soni (1997). "Avifaunal changes in the Indian Thar Desert". Journal of Arid Environments 36 (4): 687–703. doi:10.1006/jare.1996.0242. 
  23. ^ Munjpara S. B.; B.Jethva & C.N.Pandey (2011). "Distribution of the Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Gruiformes: Otididae) in Gujarat State, India". Journal of Threatened Taxa 3 (9): 2090–2094. doi:10.11609/jott.o2756.2090-4. 
  24. ^ Kasambe, R., & Pimplapure, A., Thosar, G., & Shad, M.S.R. (2007). "Sighting records of Great Indian Bustards Ardeotis nigriceps in Vidarbha". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 46 (6): 88–89. 
  25. ^ Dutta, S; AR Rahmani & YV Jhala (2010). "Running out of time? The great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps—status, viability, and conservation strategies". European Journal of Wildlife Research 57 (3): 615. doi:10.1007/s10344-010-0472-z. 
  26. ^ Kulkarni BS (1981). "Ecology and behavior of Great Indian Bustard". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 78 (2): 375–377. 
  27. ^ Manakadan, Ranjit; Rahmani, Asad R (1989). "Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, with special reference to the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (3): 369–380. 
  28. ^ Neginhal, SG (1980). "Ecological impact of afforestation at the Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 75: 1254–1258. 
  29. ^ Kumara HN & VVM Raj (2007). "The Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps" Are they disappearing in Karnataka". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 104 (2): 211–212. 
  30. ^ Ishtiaq F; Dutta S; Yumnan B; Jhala Y (2011). "Low genetic diversity in the endangered great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) across India and implications for conservation". Conservation Genetics 12 (3): 1–7. doi:10.1007/s10592-011-0206-0. 
  31. ^ Sankhala K. S (1977). "Captive breeding, reintroduction and nature protection : the Indian experience". Zoo Yearbook 17: 98–101. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1977.tb00874.x. 
  32. ^ a b Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava (6 June 2013). "Rajasthan announces Project Great Indian Bustard". Down To Earth. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  33. ^ http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/GIB%20Species%20Recovery%20Plan.pdf
  34. ^ Ali, Salim (1927). "The Moghul emperors of India as naturalists and sportsmen. Part 2". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 32 (1): 34–63. 
  35. ^ Beveridge, AS (1922). The Babur-nama in English 2. p. 498. 
  36. ^ Russell, CEM (1900). Bullet and shot in Indian forest, plain and hill. W. Thacker and Co, London. pp. 381–382. 
  37. ^ Brown JM (1887). Shikar sketches. Hurst and Blackett. pp. 53–54. 
  38. ^ Frost, John (1854). The Pictorial Family Encyclopaedia of History, Biography and Travels. Miller Orton and Mulligan. pp. 95–96. 
  39. ^ Sykes WH (1832). "Catalogue of Birds of the Rasorial, Grallatorial and Natatorial Orders, observed in the Dukhun". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. Part 2: 149–172. 
  40. ^ Jerdon TC (1864). The birds of India 3. George Wyman & Co. pp. 607–611. 
  41. ^ Oates EW (1898). A manual of the game birds of India. Part 1.. A J Combridge & Co. pp. 399–404. 
  42. ^ Simcox,AHA (1913). "The Great Indian Bustard Eupodotis edwardsi". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 22 (1): 201. 
  43. ^ Elliot, W. (1880). "Notes on the Indian Bustard (Eupodotis edwardsi), with especial reference to its gular pouch". Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond.: 486–489. 
  44. ^ Ali, S (1961). "Our national bird". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 1 (4): 3–4. 
  45. ^ Ali, Salim (1962). "National bird". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 1 (6): 4. 
  46. ^ Bindra, PS (2009). "On the brink". Tehelka Magazine 6 (16). 
  47. ^ Nair, P Thankappan (1974). "The Peacock Cult in Asia". Asian Folklore Studies 33 (2): 93–170. doi:10.2307/1177550. JSTOR 1177550. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Bhushan, B. (1985) The food and feeding behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors). Class Aves: Otididae. M.Sc. dissertation. University of Bombay, Bombay.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji RS (1957) Ecological study of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps( Vigors)[ Aves : Otididae] in Kathiawar Peninsula, western India. J. Zool. Soc. India 9:139-52.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji, RS (1962) Display, posturing and behaviour of the Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps (Vigors). Proc. 2nd All-India Congress. Zoology. Part 2:277-283

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