The bustard ordinary is one of the largest birds that are generally found in Russia. In rare cases, its size reaches 21 kg. The color of the bird is rather curious: red with black scorch marks, and the bottom of the body is white.
As it usually happens, males are somewhat larger than females, differing from them not only in size, but also in whiskers of threadlike feathers growing near the throat. In a word, the bustard bird is a very beautiful and original representative of the fauna.
It is believed that this species can not fly. This is not true: yes, the flight of a bustard is heavy, and it is possible only after a long run, but it holds confidently in the air. Oddly enough, but in the air prefers to rise against the wind. On the ground, the bustard bird is extremely cautious; only the most experienced hunters can get close to it.
It dwells in the steppe and forest-steppe zone, very fond of mixed grass meadows. It feeds on young sprouts of herbs and cereals in the dairy stage of ripeness, wild garlic and onions, does not refuse insects, small mammals and even nestlings of other birds.
It should be noted that in the summer heat the bird a bustard is in great need of unlimited access to water, as it consumes a lot of moisture. Given the fact that she does not have sweat glands, in the hot season she has a hard time. To cool their bodies, they lay down on the ground, spread their wings and open their mouth wide, breathing quickly and quickly. Only when the heat is not so terrible do these birds resume their search for food.
Dangerous and heavy rains are dangerous. They have no oil gland, and therefore their feather cover instantly gets wet. Extremely dangerous are the heavy autumn rains before the onset of winter cold. Iced feathers make bustards absolutely helpless, which is what predators use.
A hundred years ago, the bustard bird was one of the most common birds in the territory of the Russian Empire. There were thousands of them to be found where today rarely one can see at least one bird. Separate individuals are found in Ukraine, Central Asia and some regions of the Caucasus. The reason for such a sharp reduction in numbers is not even in the hunt for them, but in a strong increase in the number of steppes being plowed up.
Bustard nests (steppe birds in many respects come in similarly) are arranged by simply digging a small hole in the ground and lining it with dry grass. Often, 2-3 olive-colored eggs are laid directly on bare ground, in the absence of some kind of litter. Hatching birds have to do a month.
Only the female cares for the chicks. In case of danger, the mother gives the chicks a special signal by which they hide in the grass, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. The bird shows miracles of courage, in the moment of alarm leading the enemy behind him, or even bravely attacking him.
Before the first snow, youngsters and parents wander the steppe in search of food. When the thickness of the snow cover becomes too large, they migrate to the south. Thus, this bird of the bustard family can be met even in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
They return to their homes in May. Almost immediately, the mating season begins, during which the males very nicely talk.
Bustard just find out. Perhaps also because it is one of the largest steppe birds. The weight of males reaches 16 kg, and the total body length is 105 cm. Females are usually much smaller than males, their average weight ranges from 4 to 8 kg, and body length is from 40 to 80 cm. The bustard has well developed legs. They are practically devoid of feathering and well adapted for fast running across the steppe, therefore sometimes the bird is even called the steppe ostrich!
At the same time, bustards fly perfectly, but in case of danger they try to escape at first. The color of their plumage is great for masking among the steppe vegetation. From above, it is rusty-ocher, and below it is yellowish-white with small variegations. In the spring, on the sides of the head, males of feathers grow - a kind of "mustache". This is an element of marriage attire, which is aimed at attracting females.
Males reach sexual maturity in the fifth to sixth, and females in the third to fourth year of life. It is important to say that bustards do not form married couples. Their marriage relationship is of a type called promiscuity.
In the spring, in April - the beginning of May, early in the morning, usually before the sun rises, a current flows. Males choose open terrain - tokovische, and the most interesting sight begins.
Having dismissed the fan and vertically raising their tails, dropping their wings to the ground, they walk importantly, uttering soft cries. In full marriage dress, the male seems serious and impressive. When females appear on the tokovische, the general excitement increases and can even turn into fierce battles between males.
After mating, the females dig a small hole in the ground with their feet, line it with dry herbs and plant stems, and set about laying eggs. In laying usually two or three eggs. Caring for the offspring of a bustard is entrusted solely to females. As soon as they start building nests and laying eggs, the males gather in small groups and go to their molting sites. Family life no longer interests them. Up to 30 days, the female incubates the eggs, almost without leaving the nest. In case of danger, she presses her whole body to the ground, merging with the surrounding landscape, but does not abandon her future little ones.
Immediately after the birth, having dried out a little, the chicks get out of the nest and take their first steps. First, they feed on the larvae of ants and what they can find near their home. In a few days, the mother will lead her brood to the steppe in search of food. Bustard is a devoted and caring mother. If the children face trouble, the female distracts the enemy's attention, flying low over the grass stand so as to be clearly visible. Nestlings at this time can hide in a secluded place. It should be noted that broods try to keep apart from each other.
Reaching about 40 days of age, kids learn to fly. They grow rapidly and at this time reach a weight that is half the size of their mother. At the end of the summer, when the chicks from each brood become stronger, the broods gather in herds and stick together until the next spring.
Bustards are omnivores. They are suitable both vegetable and animal feed. Birds can even be dangerous predators, for example for small rodents, lizards and even chicks of other species. Representatives of this species live about 25 years.
The bustard is the heaviest flying bird in our country. Interestingly, it is symbolic. In Africa, bustards are associated with fertility, as well as a deep relationship between earth and air. In Russia, this bird is a symbol of the Saratov region.
The Saratov branch of the Institute of the problems of ecology and evolution named after A. N. Severtsov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The experience of this institution in restoring a population of a species is widely known not only in the whole country, but also abroad. The program was of interest to British experts, and in 2003 the British consoltium “Big bustard” and the Russian Academy of Sciences signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to restore the natural bustard population. Indeed, in England the bustard is one of the most beloved birds, as well as one of the symbols of the country. She is depicted on coats of arms, bars, clubs and various organizations are named after a bustard, but very few bustards remain in the wild nature of Albion.
In the Red Book
At the beginning of the last century, the bustard was a fairly common and even massive species in many regions of the world. However, XX century. became critical for this bird. First, bustard meat is considered a special delicacy, so it was one of the favorite objects of poaching. Secondly, even today, the plowing of steppes for agricultural land continues unabated. Virgin steppe and bustard do not exist separately. Already in the second half of the XIX century. With the development of agricultural technology and the improvement of farming methods, the bustard completely disappeared from Great Britain.
The abundance of the species also sharply decreased in Eastern Europe. In addition, bustards do not have the oil gland and they cannot protect their feathers from getting wet. In the case of heavy rains and the following sharp frosts, the plumage of birds froze over and they simply cannot fly, which makes them easy prey for predators.
Since the 1960s. Twentieth century. the number of the world bustard population has fallen by 30%. When the alarming trend was discovered and the scientific community officially confirmed it, a number of international treaties and conventions were concluded, which regulated the conduct of protective measures of this type.
In 1991, the charitable "International Bustard Foundation" was founded, whose mission is to preserve the virgin steppe and reproduce the Eastern European bustard population. Currently in Germany, Hungary and Russia there are special laboratories that are engaged in the artificial incubation of bustard eggs and prepare the chicks to return to their natural environment.
Otis tarda (the bustard, also known as the duduk) represents the family of bustards from the squad Crane and is recognized as one of the heaviest flying birds. The male grows to the size of a turkey and weighs almost twice as much as the female.. Male animals weigh 7–16 kg with a length of 1.05 m, while females weigh an average of 4–8 kg with a length of 0.8 m.
Two subspecies of bustard are described:
- Otis tarda tarda - European bustard,
- Otis tarda dubowskii - East Siberian bustard.
It is a massive bird with an unfolded chest and a thick neck. It differs from other feathered bustards not so much by its impressive dimensions, as by the variegated color and strong non-feathered limbs (adapted for ground movement).
In the plumage alternate red, black and gray, as well as white, in which the belly, chest, undertail and the back of the wings are painted. The head with the neck is usually ash-gray (with lighter shades in the eastern populations). The top consists of reddish-ocher feathers with a characteristic streaming pattern of black transverse stripes. Fly wings of the first order are always dark brown, of the second order are brown, but with white roots.
It is interesting! By spring, all males acquire chestnut "collars" and "mustache". The latter are rigid feather beams, in the form of long filaments going from the base of the beak to the sides. In the "mustache" males flaunt until the end of summer.
Regardless of the time of year, the females repeat the autumn / winter coloring of the males. The bustard has a light gray beak and dark eyes, as well as long, powerful legs of a greenish-brown color. There are 3 fingers on each leg. The tail is long, rounding at the end. The wingspan of the wide wings is 1.9–2.6 m. The bustard with the effort takes off, but flies quickly enough, pulling the neck and picking up the legs that do not extend beyond the edge of the tail. Wings of wings are slow, allowing to see large white fields and dark wing feathers on them.
Character and way of life
The bustard is awake during daylight hours. In the morning and in the evening she gets food, and in the afternoon she arranges herself a siesta, laying on the ground under the canopy of tall grasses. If the sky is covered with clouds, and the air is cool enough, the bustard goes without a midday rest and feeds without a break. Outside the breeding season, Dudaki gather in large, often same-sex flocks, numbering up to hundreds of individuals.
Occasionally, in typically female groups, there are young males that have not reached puberty. A bustard, unlike a crane, does not allow its legs / beak to enter to loosen the ground and agitate the meadow litter. The bird goes slowly and tingles the grass, eating only visible edibles and often stopping.
It is interesting! Small wildlife catches a swift blow of the beak, sharply throwing his head forward. The fleeing game is catching up with quick jumps, shaking or kicking it on the ground before swallowing.
In the air the bustard moves only during the day. In the west and south of the range, it is sedentary, in the east and north it makes seasonal migrations and is considered migratory / partially migratory. Sometimes it overcomes short distances on foot, and for wintering it departs rather late (not earlier than October - November), gathering in numerous, up to several hundred birds, flocks. Dudaki molt twice a year: in the fall, when the plumage changes completely and in the spring (before the mating season), when only small feathers change.
Bustard areas are scattered in different parts of the Eurasian continent, and the only small population lives in northeastern Morocco (Africa). There is information, however, that the African population is already extinct. In Eurasia, this is the south of the Iberian Peninsula, Austria, Slovakia and southern Bohemia. The bustard is found near Gomel, in Chernihiv, Bryansk, Ryazan, Tula, Penza and Samara regions up to southern Bashkiria.
The species inhabits Western Siberia, reaching Barnaul and Minusinsk, the south of the Eastern Sayans, the lower reaches of the Upper Angara, the Khanka lowlands and the valley of Lower Zeya. To the south, the range extends to the Mediterranean Sea, regions of Asia Minor, the southern regions of Azerbaijan and northern Iran. Birds settled east of the Caspian Sea and further to the lower reaches of the Urals, Irgiz, Turgai and eastern regions of Kazakhstan.
There is a bustard in the Tien Shan, as well as to the south, to south-western Tajikistan, and to the west, to the Karatau ridge. East of the Tien Shan area covers the northern borders of the Gobi, the foot of the Great Khingan in the southwest, northeast of Heilongjiang Province and the south of Primorye.
Important! The gap between the ranges of the eastern and western subspecies passes through the Altai. Turkish and European bustards are prone to settled, more eastern (steppe) fly away for wintering, choosing the Crimea, the south of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea, as well as northeast China.
Ornithologists talk about the high ecological adaptability of the species, based on its extensive zonal distribution. It is established that the bustards have learned to live and reproduce in landscapes, modified by man almost beyond recognition.
The initial landscape of Dudak is considered the meadow northern steppes.. Modern bustards prefer high-grass cereal (mainly feather grass) steppes. Most often settle on flat, few hilly areas (with high, but not dense vegetation), avoiding beams, ravines, steep hills and rocky areas. Bustards nest, as a rule, on the plain, occasionally inhabiting mountain steppes.
The bird has a rich gastronomic assortment, which includes animal and vegetable components, the ratio of which is influenced by the age and sex of the bustard, its locality and the availability of a specific food.
Adults willingly eat leaves, shoots, inflorescences and seeds of cultivated / wild plants such as:
- dandelion, creeper, goat worm, garden sow thistle, tansy, cultulum,
- Meadow clove and creeping clover, patolic sainfoin, pea and alfalfa (seed),
- radish sowing and field, rape, garden cabbage, turnip, black mustard,
- kolets and fescue,
- various plantain.
Occasionally it switches to the roots of the grasses - an umbrella bird, a creeping couch grass and a bow.
It is interesting! With a deficit of habitual vegetation, the bustard switches to harder food, for example, beet shoots. But coarse beet fibers often cause the death of birds due to indigestion.
The composition of animal feed looks like this:
- adults / locust larvae, grasshopper, cricket, and polar bear,
- larvae of ground beetles, carrion beetles, Colorado beetles, darkling beetles, leaf beetles and weevils,
- caterpillars of butterflies and bedbugs (rarely),
- snails, earthworms and earwigs,
- lizards, frogs, nestlings of the field lark and other birds nesting on the ground,
- small rodents,
- ants / pupae from the genus formica (for feeding to chicks).
Bustards cannot live without water: in the summer they fly to a watering place, in the winter they are content with snow.
Reproduction and offspring
Migratory bustards return to their native lands to snowmelt, starting to flow as soon as the steppe dries. They are current in groups (without fights) and one by one, choosing open areas for the current where you can observe the terrain.
One male has up to 50 m in diameter. The current is associated with the sunrise, but sometimes happens before sunset or during the day. The current quiver spreads its wings, throws back its neck, swells its throat, bristles its mustache and throws its tail on its back. The male in love ecstasy is like a white cloud, which takes its usual "bird" view after 10-15 seconds.
It is interesting! Females arriving or arriving at the current do not form permanent pairs. In bustards, both polyandry and polygyny are observed, when the “grooms” and “brides” mate with different partners.
They nest in early May, setting up nests on bare ground, occasionally masking them with grass. Hatching eggs (2–4), as well as raising broods, is entrusted to the mother: fathers unite in flocks and migrate to places of post-nuptial moult.
Chicks hatch in May - June, after three to four weeks of incubation. Pukhovichki almost immediately get out of the nest, but they do not leave it: here their mother feeds them. К самостоятельному розыску пищи они приступают дней через пять, не отказываясь от материнской подкормки еще 2–3 недели. Молодняк полностью оперяется и встает на крыло примерно к 1 месяцу, не покидая мать до осени, а зачастую и до весны. Окончательное зимнее/брачное оперение появляется у дроф не ранее 4–6 лет параллельно с фертильностью, которая у самок наступает в 2–4 года, а у самцов – в 5–6 лет.
Both ground and feathered predators hunt for adult birds:
In areas intensively mastered by humans, the danger is threatened by broods and clutches. Nests are more often ruined by meadow and field harriers, foxes, magpies, barrows, gray / black crows and rooks. The latter have adapted to accompany the field equipment, which intimidates the hen of nests, which is what rooks use. In addition, chicks and bustard eggs become easy prey for stray dogs.
Population and species status
Up to the 20th century, the bustard was widespread, inhabiting the immense steppe expanses of Eurasia. Now the species is considered endangered, and the bird is included in the Red Books of several countries and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is also protected by separate international conventions.
Important! Causes of extinction of the species, mainly anthropogenic - uncontrolled hunting, changing habitats, the work of agricultural machinery.
According to some reports, the bustard was completely exterminated in France, Scandinavia, Poland, England, the Balkans and Morocco. It is estimated that in the north of Germany there are about 200 birds left, in Hungary and the adjacent regions of Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania - about 1,300–1400 dudakov, and on the Iberian Peninsula - less than 15 thousand individuals.
In Russia, the bustard was called "princely" game, catching it in large quantities with the help of hunting birds and hounds. Now in the post-Soviet space about 11 thousand individuals have been registered, of which only 300–600 birds (living in Buryatia) belong to the eastern subspecies. To save the species, sanctuaries and reserves have been created in Eurasia, the captive breeding of the bustard and its reintroduction into the places from which it had been displaced earlier was started. In Russia, a similar reserve was opened in the Saratov region.
Bustard Bird: external description
Dudak (or the bustard ordinary) is the largest representative of birds in the fauna of Russia. She has a fairly massive physique, reminiscent of something turkey: a broad chest, thick neck. The difference between females and males in size is very clearly expressed. The first is much smaller, reaching a weight of 4-8 kg and a length of up to 80 centimeters. At the same time, males are real giants. The total length of the body is on average about one meter, and the weight reaches 16 kilograms. Therefore, it is not surprising that this steppe bird once became an object of fishing. A distinctive feature is the powerful legs with three fingers without plumage - a device for quick movement on the ground. The bird runs quite well and flies well, given the large size.
Bustard plumage color
This is another distinctive feature by which you can easily recognize this bird. The plumage is very colorful. Nature has picked up for her a beautiful combination of inconspicuous flowers. Head and neck painted in ash-gray shades, saturation may depend on the habitat of the population. The rest of the plumage from the top has a reddish-ocher color, the pattern is streamy, transverse. The chest, undertail and belly are pure white. This steppe bird does not differ in color depending on gender. And only in spring, on the neck of the male, something like a collar of bright chestnut-red color and threadlike feather bunches coming from the base of the beak appear - they persist until the end of summer.
Where does the bustard live?
Where does this beauty live? It is a steppe bird, it prefers places rich in thick, but not very high vegetation (fescue, feather grass steppes), meadows. Initially, the bustard inhabited only virgin semi-deserts and steppes, now its habitat has expanded, human economic activity has played a significant role in this. She prefers to nest on flat places, less often - in mountainous ones. It tolerates low temperatures quite well, but is sensitive to snowfall and long-term snow cover.
In connection with the development by man of large territories, the bustard bird was forced to adapt. As a result, it can now be found in agricultural fields, areas for haymaking.
1. European. It occupies most of the habitat, to the south-west of Altai. It differs in color of the head, it is darker in this subspecies, and the pattern on the back is slightly blurry, the black stripes are narrow.
2. East Siberian. Territory habitat to the east of Tuva, north and south-east of the Altai. The pattern on the back is clearer and sharper, the black bars are much wider. In addition, males feather beams develop not only on the sides of the head, but also on the throat.
What does a bustard eat?
The diet of birds has a very mixed composition, the predominance of animal or vegetable food often depends on the habitat, age and sex of the individual, as well as the availability of food at different times of the year. The adult bustard of the steppe eagerly consumes shoots, seeds, leaves and inflorescences of plants of various families, including the astera, legumes (clover, peas, alfalfa), cabbage, etc. Animal food is mainly insects and their larvae, Locust, grasshoppers, and the bear, as well as various beetles, which is interesting, including the Colorado, make up the overwhelming majority. The bustard bird is omnivorous and, on occasion, catches frogs, lizards, earthworms, and eats eggs of small birds that make nests on the ground (for example, a field lark). In periods when the number of individuals increases, it can hunt small rodents. The bustards are demanding to the presence of water, so they either settle near water bodies, or occasionally fly to watering places, use snow in winter.
But in the chicks the ration is rather meager, adults feed them with ants of the genus Formica and their larvae.
Reproduction and marriage ceremony
Puberty is reached earlier by females, by 3-4 years, and males at the age of 5-6 years. They invariably return to the nesting site every year, as soon as the first thawed patches appear on the earth. This usually occurs in March or early April. At first, the birds stay in flocks and wait for the land to dry out. After that, the time of marriage ceremonies begins, they take place in special areas - tokovischakh. The site is permanent, and the birds return to it annually. A bustard bird does not form a constant pair.
The wedding ceremony is very interesting and noisy. Moreover, the bustards in ordinary life - the birds are quite quiet. The most active action occurs early in the morning, up to 8 hours. Several males begin to show off in front of females. This is manifested in the active demonstration of plumage, inflating the throat sac, while the feathers on the throat become on end. At the climax, the bird resembles a ball and makes a dull, low sound. Interested females are watching all this. The male chooses from them, after which mating occurs.
Nest and chicks
The time when eggs are laid is approximately the same for the whole range, but the weather can have an impact. For the season is one clutch. The nest is occupied by the female. She makes a hollow in the ground with the help of her paws, pulls out all the remaining roots and grass stalks, then with a rotational movement of the body gives the hole a rounded shape. A nest thus made, as a rule, overgrows with grass and can be safely hidden. In laying, most often there are two eggs, less often one. In form, they resemble cranes, but more rounded, quite large, up to 7-9 centimeters in length. The color of eggs can vary greatly, the background varies from light brown to olive green. There are scattered spots on it, they can be small or large, sharp, in the form of a rash or irregular shape (pictured above).
Males do not take any part in incubating and raising their young. After mating, they gather in large groups and go to places of molting. The female incubates the eggs for 21-28 days. To find it in the grass thickets is quite difficult. The bustard in the steppe, having a patronizing color, is very inconspicuous. Nestlings belong to brood type, they appear completely independent and feathered. Within a month they reach a weight of 2-3 kilograms and stand on the wing. However, they stay with the mother until winter, and sometimes until spring.
Causes of species extinction
There are only three of them, and they are all related to human activities.
- Mass hunting for birds in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. The scale was very large and in some countries led to the complete disappearance of the bustard.
- Increasing the area of agricultural land and improving their processing methods. All this leads in fact to the destruction of nests, laying eggs.
- The use of bird habitats for various needs (planting forest belts, building irrigation systems, roads, high-voltage power lines, etc.).
Active measures are being taken now not only to preserve the species, but also to increase its population both in Russia and in the countries of Europe. The ways and possibilities of breeding birds in captivity are being studied. Employees of special centers collect bustard eggs in places where they are doomed to death, and placed in incubators, the nestlings grown up and then released into the wild.