Species Of Bustards
The great bustard (Otis tarda) occurs in scattered populations in Eurasia. Its present distribution is greatly reduced compared with several centuries ago because of overhunting and conversions of its natural habitat to agriculture. However, this species is still abundant in some places where its seasonal flocks can contain as many as 500 birds. The male great bustard has a spectacular courtship display in which internal air sacs are expanded to greatly puff out the chest while white plumes are erected on the wings, tail, breast, and head. This strutting display is generally performed on slightly raised ground, in front of a hopefully appreciative audience of as many as six female birds.
The little bustard (Otis tetrax) is another Eurasian species with a similarly wide distribution as the great bustard. This and the preceding species undertake seasonal migrations, flying south from the northern parts of their range. The Houbara or MacQueen's bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) occurs from the Canary Islands off western Africa, through North Africa, as far as southwestern Asia.
The Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis) is the only species to occur on that continent. This species utilizes rather dense, shrubby habitat, in contrast to the open spaces preferred by other species of bustards.
The smallest bustards are the lesser florican (Sypheotides indica) and the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) of India. The world's heaviest flying bird is the great bustard, which can achieve a weight of 48 lb (22 kg). Other large species include those in the genus Ardeotis, such as the Kori bustard (A. kori) of Southern Africa.