Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Australian Bustard

It must be Wednesday again so today I am showing you the Australian Bustard.  I got the idea after I did the last 2 Wednesday's posts of 
Beach (4 Sept.) and Bush Stone Curlews (11 Sept.) because although the Bustards are enormous in comparison, I thought they looked a bit similar.  You may wish  to compare them.  It was a very hot day in the Tablelands in Queensland and that is why there is haze in the photos and I left in the background so that you could see what other birds and animals were around at the time.  I will intersperse information between photographs.

There are cattle in the background, and a Straw necked Ibis to the left.

The Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis) is a large ground bird of grassland, woodland and open agricultural country across northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It is also commonly referred to in Central Australia as the Bush Turkey, particularly by Aboriginal people, though this name may also be used for the Australian Brush Turkey as well as the Orange-footed Scrubfowl.

The male is up to 47” tall with a 7.5 ft wingspan.
The average weight for males is 14lbs, with a range from 9.5 to 28.1 lbs.  
The female is quite a bit smaller at 31” tall, with a 5.9 ft wingspan and an average body mass of 7.1lbs in a range of 5.3 to 14.0lbs but is similarly coloured.  

The largest male was shot just outside Victoria and was 32lbs!   It is the largest flying land bird in Australia.  The back, wings and tail are dull brown, mottled black and white markings on the wing coverts. The neck and head appear dull white and the crown black. Legs are yellow to cream coloured.


Because of their great weight, Bustards much prefer to walk, though it is a spectacular sight when they do fly. They have a pale grey neck and belly, and freckled brown wings and tail. Male Bustards have a black crown, while the females have a brown crown.    


Feeding:

Australian Bustards are omnivorous, eating leaves, buds, seeds, fruit, frogs, lizards, and invertebrates. They walk slowly, picking at food items as they wander, usually at twilight and after dark.  They are nomadic in searching for food.

If there is a plaque of mice or grasshoppers, Australian Bustards will gorge themselves on the plentiful food supply.



Behind the Bustard are Sarus Cranes (that's another story)

Breeding season: - October to December, or after rain

Clutch Size: 1   Incubation: 23 days    

Breeding:
Australian Bustards breed once a year. When mating, the males clear a display area, then inflate a large throat sac, producing a loud, deep roaring noise, while they strut around with their tails cocked high. 

The large, olive-green egg may be laid on bare ground or in grass, but usually where the parent bird has a good view of approaching predators. The female sits low, well camouflaged, and she incubates and cares for the young.  Newly hatched chicks are striped dark and light.

The following shots are a Bustard in flight.

The Bustard has a 'snooty' appearance as it walks sedately along, holding its head and neck high. When disturbed, it will walk away slowly, still watching.

 When it does fly, the flight is strong, with the ends of the wing feathers characteristically spread and up-curved. It may be found in small groups or singly. This species is also called the Plains Turkey or Wild Turkey.










This is a group I was away for a few days with and the following photographs are of these Bustards that I spotted on another occasion from the ones above.


Australian Bustards were once extensively hunted and shot for food and with habitat changes made by introduced mammals such as rabbits, cattle and sheep, they are now limited to inland areas. This species is listed as endangered in New South Wales.


Australian Aborigines generally refer to this bird as the Bush Turkey. It is an important food source for Aboriginal people from Central Australia, and is still eaten today. The white feathers of the bird are used for ceremonial purposes.




Key threatening processes include habitat alteration due to human harvesting, altered fire regimes (they need a mixture of open ground for grazing and thick vegetation to hide their young; and some of their fruit/seeds are from fire-sensitive plants), cattle grazing, and invasion by woody weeds. Furthermore, they lay their eggs directly on the ground, so are vulnerable to predation by introduced predators such as cats, foxes and dingoes, and trampling by cattle.


Bustards are unique among Australia’s birds in that they exhibit what is known as an ‘exploded lek’ mating system. Leks are tight aggregations of males that come together to display in specific areas, in order to attract females. A lek arena is regarded as ‘exploded’ if males are well spaced from one another (that is from 100 to 1000 m apart). Usually, among lekking species, it is the larger, more elaborate males that are most successful at attracting mates. 

This has important implications for harvesting bustards, because if bigger birds are preferred for harvest, then the breeding performance of the population as a whole may suffer. Furthermore, as leks are located in traditional arenas, damage to the habitat encompassing the lek arena may prohibit birds from displaying and breeding.


I hope you enjoyed this post about the Australian Bustard as much as
 I did finding them on 2 different occasions.

Thanks you for visiting.

I am linking to Wild Bird Wednesday

44 comments:

  1. Such a big bird - and I am not surprised that the aboriginals found them a tasty addition to their diet.
    Sadly habitat damage (largely caused by humans) is responsible for far too many birds and animals becoming endangered. Sometimes I despair of humanity.

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  2. HI EC Yes I sometomes dispair about the human race. Many thanks for your comments.

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  3. Another wonderful post Margaret. Beautifully documented and what an interesting bird this is.

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    1. HI Denise Many thanks for your kind comments and glad you enjoyed this wonderful bird.

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  4. Another excellent and informative post Margaret. It must have been great to see these majestic birds in their natural habitat? It's the same old (worldwide) story though regarding us humans and the hunting and persecution of wildlife.

    I don't suppose we'll be around to see our own Great Bustard (otis tarda) once more, if ever, roaming freely across our countryside? It went extinct in the British Isles when the last one was shot in 1832. Although I think the reintroduction project down in Wiltshire is doing well with a couple of successful breeding pairs, a long way to go though!...[;o)

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    1. HI Trevor Many thanks for your kind comments adn glad you not only enoyed the photos but the information as well. Trevor, I forgot about the reintroducion of the Bustards in England, Thanks for the reminder, must llok up what is happening there. You are right, we not be arond the see the Great Bustard roaming around are countryside unfortunately.

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  5. they aren't the prettiest bird-it is odd they wouldn't at least make a dent or something for more protection for their progeny and it is so interesting how each species does things so differently.

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  6. HI Lynn No, not the prettiest hoowever wonderful to have seen them in the wild. Many thanks for comment.

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  7. They look like cool birds to me, they do not have to be pretty. Interest post and photos, Margaret! Have a happy day!

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    1. HI Kerri Many thanks for looking at my post and thanks for comment.

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  9. You got some marvellous shots there margaret, especially the one in flight where the bird does indeed look very powerful. I can imagine how the aborigines would regard them as good eating at such a weight and size. thanks for your infomative and entertaining commentary too.

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    1. HI Phil Have you got that washing done yet!!!! I am glad you enjoyed both the information and the photos. This sure is one big magnificent bird which I have been privledged to see twice.

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  10. Great looking bird - I have only seen this bird once - two walked across the road in front of us when we were driving south of Broome. No chance of pictures.

    I think thats another place I need to go back to!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. HI Stewart Great that you have seen this bird too. I am very priveldged to have seen it while in Australia. Now I have never been to Broome. Perhaps we coild have a trip to there - Blogger Birders at Broom!! Sounds good and I don't even know where Broom is!!

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  11. Hi Eileen Many thanks for commenting and I am glad you enjoyed the information along with the photogrpahs.

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  12. How shocking and wonderful today! You see, I have heard of Bustards most of my life, but I always thought they were completely extinct!!! Maybe there are other Bustards besides the Australian one and THEY are the extinct ones? Any way, truly interesting today!

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    1. HI Ginny I am very pleased you enjoyed the post today and I appreciate your comments.

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  13. It is an real beauty. It has a comical look about it.

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    1. HI Adrian Glad you enoyed seeing this bird adnmany thaks for comment.

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  14. you're right - they do resemble the other bird. SO funky looking! but very cool!

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    1. Hi Tex I am glad someone thought the Bush & Beach Curlews looks similar to the Bustards. Glad you enjoyed them and thanks for comment.

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  15. An interesting post, Margaret! Loved seeing the bird in flight!

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    1. Hi Cheryl Many thanks for comment and I am glad you found the post interesting.

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  16. What a unique looking bird. Love the flight shots!

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    1. Hi Karen Yes it is unique and glad you liked the flight shots of it. Thanks for comment.

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  17. Very great information. I wish I were on this trip with you. I just learned quite a bit. Keep sharing your stories about your birds. They are so different from our own. Thank you.

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  18. HI Chris You may not know but I live in Northern Ireland and the reason I am posting about Australian birds is because I have a daughter who lives over there and I have visited Australia quite a number of times and have many photos to share. I am very glad you are enjoying these posts and that you are learning from them. Thanks for your comments.

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  19. The Australian Bustard is fabulous, oh well photos Margaret.

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  20. HI BobGlad you liked the Bustard and thaks for comment.

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  21. 47" tall is huge! And, the one that weighed in at 32 lbs. Big birds. Such beautiful photos, Margaret. Just beautiful. What are those dirt mounds in the last one?? blessings ~ tanna

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    1. HI Tanna Yes these birds are huge! The mounds are Ant colonies. Glad you liked the post and found it interesting. Thanks for comment.

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  22. Wow---I had never heard of this huge bird... Bustards are awesome... So the Aboriginal people kill them for food, huh????? Interesting...

    My favorite photos are seeing them in flight... WOW--what gorgeous birds. Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Hi Betsy Glad you enjoyed epecially the bbirdin flight. Thanks for comment.

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  23. What an interesting bird. Great post, Margaret.

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    1. Hi linda Thanks for comment adn glad you enjoyoed this post.

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  24. Very interesting to learn more and to view your great photos.

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  25. HI BL Glad you enjoyed the information and photos. thanks for comment.

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  26. Hi Margaret,
    This is a very interesting bird. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. HI Gunilla It was a pleasure to share this unique bird with you. Thanks for comment.

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  27. Great post! I've never heard of a "bustard" before, although I've been called something very close it. I love the combination of great photos and interesting information.

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    1. Hi Pat Glad you enjoyed both the birds and the information.

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  28. Very interesting and also great. I'm glad to find out this site immediately. It's very informative about Australian Bird.

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