Houbara bustard

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This article is about the North African species. For the Asian Houbara that was considered a subspecies, see MacQueen's Bustard.
Houbara Bustard
Houbara035.JPG
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Otidae
Genus: Chlamydotis
Species: C. undulata
Binomial name
Chlamydotis undulata
(Jacquin, 1784)
Houbara map.svg

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.

External links[edit]