The Great Indian bustard or Indian bustard is a bustard found on the Indian subcontinent.
Bustards are large terrestrial birds found in dry grasslands and steppe regions.
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.
It is the State bird of Rajasthan and is considered India’s most critically endangered bird.
It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
Its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small populations occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
The bird is under constant threat due to collision/electrocution with power transmission lines, hunting (still prevalent in Pakistan), habitat loss and alteration as a result of widespread agricultural expansion, etc.
International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List:Critically Endangered
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):Appendix I
Weighing about 15 kgs, the great Indian bustard is easily recognisable by its black cap over a pale head and neck. The male deep sandy buff coloured and its breast band turns black during the mating season. The female is smaller than the male.
Although the Kori bustard (Ardeotiskori) and the great bustard (Otis tarda) are bigger than it, the Great Indian Bustard is the largest flying bird in its native region, standing at about 3.3 ft tall.
The Great Indian Bustard was spread throughout India and Pakistan but now is only found in a few pockets in both the countries.
Earlier present in 11 states of India, they are now restricted to the following 6 states today.
Behaviour and Habitat of the Great Indian Bustard
The male Indian Bustard is usually solitary but forms small flocks during the winter.
The Great Indian Bustard is found in semi-arid and arid grasslands, with tall grass in the open. They are also found near farmlands as well.
These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
The bird is omnivorous preying on insects, rodents, and reptiles mostly while also consuming grass seed berries. Near farmlands, they also feed on groundnut, millets, and legumes pods.
When threatened the females are known to carry their young under the wing when fleeing.
Measures are taken to protect Great Indian Bustard:
Species Recovery Programme:
It is kept under the species recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
National Bustard Recovery Plans:
It is currently being implemented by conservation agencies.
Conservation Breeding Facility:
MoEF&CC, Rajasthan government and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have also established a conservation breeding facility in Desert National Park at Jaisalmer in June 2019.
The objective of the programme is to build up a captive population of Great Indian Bustards and to release the chicks in the wild for increasing the population.
Project Great Indian Bustard:
It has been launched by the Rajasthan government with an aim of constructing breeding enclosures for the species and developing infrastructure to reduce human pressure on its habitats.
Task Force for suggesting eco-friendly measures to mitigate impacts of power transmission lines and other power transmission infrastructures on wildlife including the Great Indian Bustard.