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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

A largely solitary bird, the houbara bustard feeds alone or in small groups on beetles, ants and plants. In the breeding season, males and females meet only to choose a mate and to breed. Courtship takes place between December and March and involves a sophisticated display (4). The male ruffles the feathers of his crest, neck and head and raises the wings. He walks steadily and calmly in a large circle or straight line, with the tail raised and fanned out, occasionally lowering the wings. Abruptly, the male then begins to leap back and forth as he attempts to attract the attention of the female. Once the female has made her choice and mated with a male, neither bird will mate again that season (2). The female leaves the male after mating and both sexes remain solitary for the remainder of the breeding season. Between February and April the female lays two or three eggs in a small scrape (4). After hatching, the chicks follow the female for protection as she feeds, as they are vulnerable to predators, including eagles, falcons, foxes, wolves, monitor lizards, snakes and kestrels (5).
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Description

A striking bird resembling a turkey in shape, the houbara bustard is at its most magnificent during the courtship display. It has a long neck and tail, narrow wings, and long black and white feathers drooping over the neck. The head is small with a short, black and white crest and large eyes. Males are slightly larger and have ornate bristles on the head and neck. The body is brown with wavy, black barring on the back and white on the underside. Juveniles resemble adult females (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Chlamydotis undulata occurs in a wide range across North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia, in three subspecies. Race fuertaventurae is confined to the eastern Canary Islands, Spain. Race undulata occupies North African countries as follows: northernmost Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt west of the Nile with old records from Sudan. Race macqueenii extends from Egypt east of the Nile through Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E., Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia to China, with unconfirmed reports from Azerbaijan and Turkey (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997). The population of race fuertaventurae in the mid-1990s was estimated at 527 birds, with 18 on La Graciosa, 268 on Lanzarote and 241 on Fuerteventura, although an apparently independent assessment put the total population at 147-882 birds (Carrascal and Alonso 2005). More recent estimates place the population at 108-252 birds on Fuerteventura, 272-801 on Lanzarote and 3-10 on La Graciosa (Carrascal et al. 2006), whilst another census estimated the population at around 1,000 birds on the all the islands, with 384-459 on Fuerteventura, 383-806 on Lanzarote and 11-17 on La Graciosa (Lorenzo et al. 2007). The population of nominate undulata in the mid-1990s was estimated to be at least 9,800 individuals, of which over 50% were in Algeria, 30% in Morocco and 10% in Libya (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in North Africa has not been considered achievable (without huge confidence limits). Instead, it has been roughly estimated that the region holds around 30% of the total population. Although this subspecies showed a steady decline of c.25% in the 20 years preceding 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), this trend has since been reversed by a successful captive breeding and release programme in east Morocco and west Algeria, and the overall population of undulata is now thought to be increasing (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). The population of race macqueenii in the mid-1990s was estimated to be in the range 39,000-52,000, of which over 75% were in Kazakhstan and 15% in Uzbekistan (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in the Middle East and central Asia has also not been considered achievable without huge confidence limits. Instead, the region has been broken into two, west Asia (the resident population distributed from the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan and Uzbekistan) with around 20% of the total population, and east Asia (the migrant population distributed from Kazakhstan to China) with around 50%. With no new information on the rate of decline in west Asia, that of c.25% estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is retained here. The species has declined "sharply" in east Asia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). Whilst this rate has been highly variable (ranging from a 40% increase in east Kazakhstan to a 90% decline in west Kazakhstan), an overall decline rate of c.40-50% as estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is thought to remain sensible. The species showed a general decline of c.35% from 1984-2004, but trends now are likely to be less severe given the arrested decline in North Africa. If 50% (east Asia) of the species is declining by 40-50%, 20% (west Asia) is declining by c.25%, and the remaining 30% (North Africa) is now increasing (at a conservative estimate, by 1-10%) the global population is currently declining by c.20-29%.

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Range

There are three subspecies of houbara bustard: Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii is found in the deserts of Russia and the Middle East, C. u. undulata is found in North Africa and C. u. fuertaventurae is found in the eastern Canary Islands. They differ slightly in their size and colouration, but are not consistent in their migratory tendencies (4). North African and Middle Eastern birds are resident or partially migratory, moving short distances to find fresh vegetation, whereas other Asian populations are fully migratory (5).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
All subspecies inhabit sandy and stony semi-desert and are specialised to existence in arid conditions where trees are absent and both shrub cover and herb layer are sparse (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Martí and del Moral 2003). Scrub forest is used in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). They feed on invertebrates, small vertebrates and green shoots, and typically lay 2-4 eggs in a scrape on the ground. Eggs and young are vulnerable to ground predators. North African and Arabian populations may be sedentary or partially migratory, moving relatively short distances to find recent plant growth; populations from Turkmenistan east to China are migratory, and winter in large numbers in Iran and, less abundantly, other parts of the Middle East (Snow and Perrins 1998).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Adapted to arid conditions with little vegetation, the houbara bustard is found in sandy and stony semi-desert regions (5).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2bcd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Collar, N., Combreau, O., González, C., Iñigo, A., Launay, F., Lorenzo, J. & Islam, Z.

Justification
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has undergone rapid population declines over three generations (20 years) owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels, as well as habitat degradation.

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Status in Egypt

Former and resident breeder?

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Status

The houbara bustard is classified as Vulnerable (VU A2bcd + 3bcd) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendix II of the Berne Convention on European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (6) and on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive (7).
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Population

Population
The population in Kazakhstan was estimated at c.49,000 in 2011. Added to a population likely to number 4,000-6,000 birds in China and Mongolia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012), this gives an estimate of 53,000-55,000 for the east Asian migrant population. This is thought to represent around 50% of the global population, and so a very preliminary estimate of the global population is 106,000-110,000 individuals. This is placed in the band 100,000-499,999 individuals to account for uncertainty.


Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The principal threat to the North Africa, Middle Eastern and western Asian populations is from hunting by Middle Easten falconers, largely but not exclusively on the species's wintering grounds (Judas et al. 2009, Michler 2009). Large numbers of Houbara Bustard are trapped, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, and shipped to Arabia for use in training falcons to hunt (Combreau 2007). Habitat loss and degradation compound this problem (Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Combreau et al. 2001, Combreau et al. 2002). The race fuertaventurae is threatened by collisions with powerlines, with up to 17% killed in this way (Lowen 2007, C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007); habitat degradation caused by tourist facilities; off-road vehicles; military exercises; overgrazing; sand extraction and road development, and possibly also nest predation by introduced mammals and illegal hunting (Martín. et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). Recent evidence suggests that the impact of military exercises and hunting have reduced considerably in recent years, but mortality from powerlines may be significant (C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007).

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The traditional practice of hunting for houbara bustards by Middle Eastern falconers has reduced populations significantly, mainly on the wintering grounds. This over-hunting has been compounded by habitat loss and degradation. The subspecies C. u. fuertaventurae has been particularly affected by habitat degradation as a result of tourist activities and associated development, as well as by military exercises, over-grazing, sand-extraction, and road-development. Further threats include collisions with power lines, and nest-predation by introduced mammals (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. For the race fuertaventurae: improved protection from poaching, reduction of grazing (agricultural decline) and habitat management within protected areas (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). SEO/BirdLife purchased a 209 ha reserve to protect the species on Fuerteventura in 2005. For the race undulata: an action plan for the species in North Africa was published in 2007 (Azafzaf et al. 2007). A successful captive breeding and release programme is on-going in Morocco and Algeria (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). For the race macqueenii: studies of the status, ecology and migration of the species in various parts of its range, notably Kazakhstan (Combreau et al. 2001, 2002, Tourenq et al. 2004, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). Captive breeding schemes have been established which are intended in part as quarry substitutes for wild birds, and also for certain restocking initiatives in Arabia (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004); a population has been reintroduced into Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area in central Saudi Arabia, where it is now established and numbers 250-300 individuals, and other reintroductions are planned elsewhere in the country (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Produce a range-wide action and recovery plan, based on agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species. Monitor and reduce hunting pressure throughout range. Establish robust, workable systems for the sustainability of hunting throughout range. Create hunting preserves and other types of managed protected areas. Reduce grazing and other farming pressures (Goriup 1997, Combreau et al. 2001, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). For the race macqueenii: assess the population in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). For the race fuertaventurae: designate new and expand existing special protected areas under European law. Increase wardening of key areas. Ensure safe powerline positions; conduct rigorous census every five years. Continue conservation-related biological research. Undertake local awareness campaigns (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003).

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Conservation

C. u. fuertaventurae has benefited from improved protection from poaching and improved habitat management within protected areas. C. u. macqueenii has been the subject of several studies into its status, ecology and migration routes. It has also been involved in captive breeding programmes for restocking areas where it is heavily hunted. No conservation measures are known to have been put into action for C. u. undulata. A whole species action plan has yet to be produced although there is a European action plan for C. u. fuertaventurae. Managed hunting preserves are crucial to the recovery of the houbara bustard (5).
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Wikipedia

Houbara bustard

This article is about the North African species. For the Asian Houbara that was considered a subspecies, see MacQueen's Bustard.

The Houbara Bustard or North African Houbara (Chlamydotis undulata) is a large bird in the bustard family. This bustard is found in arid habitats spread across northern Africa with a population on the Canary Islands. They are dull brown with black markings on the wings with a greyish neck and a black ruff along the side of the neck. Males and females appear very similar but males are larger and heavier. This species formerly included MacQueen's Bustard, sometimes known as the Asian Houbara as a subspecies.

Description[edit]

The Houbara Bustard is a small to mid-sized bustard. It measures 55–65 cm (22–26 in) in length and spans 135–170 cm (53–67 in) across the wings. It is brown above and white below, with a black stripe down the sides of its neck. In flight, the long wings show large areas of black and brown on the flight feathers. It is slightly smaller and darker than Macqueen's Bustard. The sexes are similar, but the female, at 66 cm (26 in) tall, is rather smaller and greyer above than the male, at 73 cm (29 in) tall.[2][clarification needed] The body mass is 1.15–2.4 kg (2.5–5.3 lb) in males and 1–1.7 kg (2.2–3.7 lb) in females.[3][clarification needed]

Taxonomy[edit]

The former Asian subspecies, C. u. macqueenii, has now been split as a full species, MacQueen's Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii. These two species are the only members of the Chlamydotis genus.[4] The Canarian Houbara is the subspecies Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae. The dividing line between the two Chlamydotis species is the Sinai peninsula. Based on the rates of divergence of mitochondrial DNA sequences, the two subspecies are thought to have separated from a common ancestor around 20 to 25 thousand years ago. The separation from MacQueen's Bustard is older at 430 thousand years ago.[5]

The British Ornithologists' Union's Taxonomic Records Committee's decision to accept this split has been questioned on the grounds that the differences in the male courtship displays may be functionally trivial, and would not prevent interbreeding, whereas a difference in a pre-copulation display would indicate that the two are separate species.[6] The committee responded to this scepticism, by explaining that there are differences in both courtship and pre-copulation displays.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Houbara Bustard is found in North Africa west of the Nile mainly in the western part of the Sahara desert region in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Some old records exist from Sudan. A small population is found in the Canary Islands. The Asian Houbara or MacQueen's Bustard which was earlier included in this species occurs east of the Sinai Peninsula. The north African species is sedentary unlike the northern populations of MacQueen's Bustards.

Behaviour[edit]

C. u. fuertaventurae in Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Breeding[edit]

Like other bustards, this species has a flamboyant display raising the white feathers of the head and throat and withdrawing the head. Two to four eggs are laid on the ground. It hardly ever uses its voice.

Feeding[edit]

This species is omnivorous, taking seeds, insects and other small creatures.

Status[edit]

Subspecies fuertaventurae of the Canary Islands is highly restricted and endangered. A 1997 survey found a total population of about 500 birds.[8]


A Saudi prince has poached over 2,100 internationally protected houbara bustards in 21-day hunting safari in Chagai, Balochistan, during which the royal also indulged in illegal hunting in protected areas, says a report.

The report titled ‘Visit of Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud regarding hunting of houbara bustard’ prepared by Jaffar Baloch, divisional forest officer of the Balochistan forest and wildlife department, Chagai at Dalbandin, says the prince hunted for 21 days – from Jan 11, 2014 to Jan 31– and hunted 1,977 birds, while other members of his party hunted an additional 123 birds, bringing the total bustard toll to 2,100, sources said.

They said that hunting of the internationally protected bird was banned in Pakistan also, but the federal government issued special permits to Gulf states’ royals.

Permits, which are person specific and could not be used by anyone else, allow the holders to hunt up to100 houbara bustards in 10 days in the area allocated, excluding reserved and protected areas.

The report dated Feb 4, 2014 (No: 216-219 HB/CHI) says that during the 21-day safari the prince hunted the birds for 15 days in the reserved and protected areas, poached birds in other areas for six days and took rest for two days.

Giving a breakup of date-wise as well as area-wise details of the prince’s expedition, the report says that he hunted 112 houbara bustards in the Gut game sanctuary (Arbe pat) which is a reserved and protected area on Jan 11, 2014.The next two days on Jan 12 and 13th he hunted 116 and 93 birds in the Gut game sanctuary (Sai Rek) which is also a reserved and protected area. Then for the next two days Prince Fahd, who is also governor of Tabuk, visited Sato Gut and hunted 82 and 80 houbaras on Jan 14 and 15, respectively. On Jan 16, he visited Gut-i-Barooth and hunted 79 houbaras. Both these areas are not protected areas, says the report.

For the next six days the Saudi royal camped in the Koh-i-Sultan state forest, which is a reserved and protected area, and hunted 93, 82, 94, 97, 96 and 120 houbara bustards on Jan 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22, respectively.

On Jan 23 and 24, he continued his hunting spree in the Gut game sanctuary (Dam), which is a reserved as well as protected area, and hunted 116 and 197 houbara bustards, respectively.

The prince carried out hunting of the protected bird in Thalo Station and hunted 89 houbara bustards on Jan 25 and spent the next two days hunting the birds in Pul Choto, killing 34 and 89 birds on Jan 26 and 27, respectively. Both of these areas are neither reserved nor protected, says the report.

The remaining four days, Prince Fahd spent in the Gut game sanctuary, a reserved as well as protected area, and hunted 92, 94, 119 and 97 birds on Jan 28, 29, 30, and 31, respectively. The royal guest took rest on Feb 1 and 2 at the Bar Tagzai base camp after bringing the grand total of his trophies to 1,977.

The report says: “123 birds were hunted by local representatives and other labourers of the hunting party. The total bustards hunted by Prince Fahd bin Abdul Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud are 1,977 and total bustards hunted by local representatives and other labourers are 123 bringing the grand total to 2100”.[9]

Status and conservation[edit]

The North African Houbara Bustard declined in populations in the two decades before 2004, but unlike its near relative the Asian Houbara or MacQueen's Bustard, has been on the increase since. Although hunted both by falconers and by hunters with guns, the extent is much less than that faced by MacQueen's Bustard in the middle east and west Asia.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Chlamydotis undulata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Ali, S. (1993). The Book of Indian Birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society. ISBN 0-19-563731-3. 
  3. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  4. ^ Taxonomic recommendations for British birds (PDF).
  5. ^ Idaghdour, Youssef; Broderick, Damien; Korrida, Amal; Chbel, Faiza (2004). "Mitochondrial control region diversity of the houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata complex and genetic structure along the Atlantic seaboard of North Africa". Molecular Ecology 13 (1): 43–54. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294X.2003.02039.x. 
  6. ^ Cowan, P. J. (2004) Are there really two species of houbara? British Birds 97(7): 346-7
  7. ^ Collinson, Martin (2004) Are there really two species of houbara? - a response from the TSC British Birds 97(7): 348
  8. ^ Aurelio Martin; Juan Antonio Lorenzo; Miguel Angel Hernandez; Manuel Nogales; Félix Manuel Medina; Juan Domingo Delgado; José Julián Naranjo; Vicente Quilis and Guillermo Delgado (1997). "Distribution, status and conservation of the houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae Rothschild & Hartert, 1894, in the Canary Islands, November–December 1994". Ardeola 44 (1): 61–69. 
  9. ^ http://www.dawn.com/news/1101272
  10. ^ IUCN

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  • Stone, Richard. "The Houbara: Headed for Oblivion?" Science, Vol. 321, 12 September 2008, p. 1441.
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