(J. E. Gray, 1832)
MacQueen's bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii) is a large bird in the bustard family. It was earlier included as a subspecies of the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) and sometimes known as the Asian houbara. The subspecies are geographically separated from the houbara found west of the Sinai peninsula in North Africa with a population in the Canary Islands. MacQueen's bustard is found in the desert and steppe regions of Asia, east from the Sinai peninsula extending across Kazhakstan east to Mongolia. These two species are the only members of the genus Chlamydotis. MacQueen's is a partial latitudinal migrant while the houbara bustard is more sedentary. In the 19th century vagrants were found as far west of their range as Great Britain. Populations have decreased by 20 to 50% from 1984 to 2004 due mainly to hunting and land-use changes.
This medium sized bustard is about 65 centimetres (26 in) long with a 140 centimetres (55 in) wingspan. It is brown above and white below, with black stripes down the sides of the neck. In flight, the long wings show large areas of black and brown on the flight feathers and a white patch at the base of the primaries. From below the wing is mostly white with a black trailing edge. Sexes are similar, but the female is smaller and paler above. Macqueen's bustard is very silent except for the sounds that males make in their display. Like other bustards, they have a flamboyant display, raising the white feathers of the head and throat and withdrawing the head while walking around a chosen lek site.
Males and females are nearly identical in plumage but males are slightly larger than females. A study of the morphometrics of MacQueen's bustards from Pakistan based on about 79 individuals of known sex showed that the males were 9 to 15% larger than females on most measurements. The use of discriminant analysis allowed correct identification of the sexes based on morphometrics in about 99% of the cases.
MacQueen's bustard was once included as one of three subspecies of the houbara. The lack of intermediate forms on the edges where their distributions meet (presumed to be in the Nile valley), differences in morphology and display behaviour led to their being elevated to full species. The houbara bustard now refers only to the North African population (included as the nominate subspecies C. undulata undulata) and a small population on the Canary Islands (C. u. fuertaventurae). MacQueen's is larger than the houbara and much paler. The feathers on the top of the head include some long and curved feathers which are white or black with white bases. In the houbara, these crest feathers are all white and the difference is evident during the display of the male. Estimates based on the divergence of mitochondrial DNA sequence suggest that the species separated from the common ancestors of C. u. undulata and C. u. fuertaventurae nearly 430,000 years ago. This divergence may have begun 900,000 years ago, at a time of extreme aridity. The wide dispersal abilities of MacQueen's bustard ensure that their genes are more well mixed unlike the geographically structured genetic patterns shown by the African houbara.
The species name is after the collector Mr. MacQueen from whose collection it was named by John Edward Gray in his illustrated catalogue of Indian Zoology based on the collections (some being illustrations made by Indian artists) of Major-General Thomas Hardwicke. It has been suggested that this was a Major Thomas MacQueen. It was originally placed in the genus Otis.
Distribution and habitat
MacQueen's bustard occurs from the east of the Sinai peninsula in Palestine, Arabia, to the Caspian Sea and extending east to the Aral Sea in Mongolia. Birds from the northern populations winter further south in Pakistan (mainly in western Balochistan) and in the dry arid zone of western India. Vagrants have historically been found as far west and north as Britain and as far south as northern Kerala (Kanhangad). A bird was shot in 1847 at Lincolnshire, Yorkshire in 1898 and Aberdeenshire in 1898 all in the month of October. Possibly the last of these vagrants visited Suffolk in November–December 1962. This species breeds in deserts and other very arid sandy areas. A study of their habitat in Saudi Arabia found the species to be very dependent on good vegetation cover and tended to be found in areas with dense growth of scrub vegetation, particularly Capparis spinosa. A study in the steppes of Iran found that nest sites were chosen mainly in locations with high densities of insect prey which in turn were related to vegetation characteristics.
The male houbara displays initially with the neck upright and the feathers on the base of the neck erected. A few feathers on the head are also erected while walking slowly, with one foot moved carefully and placed just ahead of the other. This is followed by a more vigorous phase of running either in a line or in a circle around a few bushes while the neck is tucked back into an "S". The neck feathers are erected and cover the head. The feet are raised in a measured gait and the neck is swayed from side to side. A low sound of breathing may be heard but only at very close. Males will call during display and if there are no potential mates, the display may be repeated. When a mate appears to be receptive, the male puffs up the black feathers on the sides of the neck so that it appears like a black collar or ruff and walks towards the female while twisting his body from side to side. The males mate with multiple females and after mating, the female alone builds the nest and incubates. The clutch consists of 2–4 eggs laid in a bare scrape on the ground. The eggs hatch after about 23 days and as in all bustards, the nidifugous chicks leave the nest immediately after hatching and follow the mother which picks insects and passes them to the chicks with her beak. The young fledge in about 30 days but remain close to their mother for several months.
When pursued by falcons (such as the saker falcon or peregrine falcon) in falconry, the bustard rises into the air and spirals to avoid being struck. It has been claimed that it also defends itself by defecating on the falcon, the sticky faeces causing the falcon to crash to the ground with wings stuck.
This species is omnivorous taking seeds, berries, insects and other invertebrates. They do not drink water and obtain all the moisture they need from their diet. Tenebrionid beetles were found to be especially numerous in one study. Plant material makes up more of their diet during the non-breeding season.
Threats and conservation
The species was once nearly hunted to near-extinction in the Middle East by Arab falconers, hunters and poachers. It was considered great sport in colonial India, especially to hunt tiloor (the local name) from camel back. The bird would be approached in narrowing circles and on close approach the bustard would squat on the ground and conceal itself. The introduction of jeeps and guns however led to a drastic decline in the population of the species. Hunts in some parts of Pakistan have been organized for wealthy Arabs who purchase permits to hunt a limited number of birds but routinely exceed quotas. The meat of this bustard is considered by some as an aphrodisiac (a diuretic according to another source). In January, 2014, Saudi prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud shot 2,100 MacQueen's bustards during a 21-day hunting safari in Chagai, Balochistan in Pakistan. Rapid population declines of about 50% were seen in their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan between 1998 and 2002 and thought to be due to hunting, especially in their winter grounds. Annual declines over a ten year period across Asia were estimated at around 27–30% in 2004.
Conservation efforts were made across the region after the 1970s with international conservation organizations working along with local governments. Some captive breeding facilities were created including one in Saudi Arabia in 1986 and have been successful in captive breeding since the late 1990s, initially by incubating eggs collected from the wild and later entirely in captivity using artificial insemination. They are the only bustard species that have been successfully bred in captivity, but captive-bred birds are considerably more inbred and may be susceptible to diseases.
Their migrations have been tracked using satellite transmitters. Mongolian birds leave the wintering areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan from mid to late March and arrive in their breeding grounds after about two months of flying, taking a path that avoids the high mountains of the Himalayas. They fly about 220 km a day and cover a total of 4400 km with stopovers along the path. They spend about four months in their breeding territories before setting off again and reach their winter grounds from October to December.
The species is very sensitive to disturbance by humans and livestock when nesting. A study in Uzbekistan found that sheep grazing did not come in the way of MacQueen's usage of non-breeding habitats. The main threat to the species is due to degradation of their semi-desert habitat by the introduction of agriculture and by infrastructure developments such as roads and electricity which increase their mortality. They also are at considerable risk during migration as they are poached heavily apart from development leading to a lack of suitable habitats along their migration routes.
- Rasmussen, P.C. & J.C. Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Washington DC and Barcelona: Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. pp. 148–149.
- Jarrett, Nigel S.; Warren, Stephanie M. (1999). "A preliminary guide for age and sex determination of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii.". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 96 (1): 28–41.
- Gaucher, Philippe; Paillat, Patrick; Chappuis, Claude; Jalme, Michel Saint; Lotfikhah, Fatemeh; Wink, Michael (1996). "Taxonomy of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata subspecies considered on the basis of sexual display and genetic divergence". Ibis 138: 273–282. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919x.1996.tb04339.x.
- 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.
- Korrida, Amal; Schweizer, Manuel (2014). "Diversification across the Palaearctic desert belt throughout the Pleistocene: phylogeographic history of the Houbara–Macqueen's bustard complex (Otididae: Chlamydotis) as revealed by mitochondrial DNA". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 52 (1): 65–74. doi:10.1111/jzs.12036.
- Pitra, Christian; D'Aloia, Marie-Ann; Lieckfeldt, Dietmar; Combreau, Olivier (2004). "Genetic variation across the current range of the Asian houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii)". Conservation Genetics 5 (2): 205–215. doi:10.1023/B:COGE.0000030004.51398.28.
- Gray, J.E. (1844). List of specimens of birds in collection of the British Museum. Part 3. Gallinae, Grallae, and Anseres. p. 57.
- Boelens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird?: Common Bird Names and the People They Commemorate. Yale University Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-300-10359-X.
- Gray, John Edward (1834). Illustrations of Indian Zoology chiefly selected from the collection of Major-General Hardwicke. Volume 2. London: Adolphus Richter and Co. p. 57.
- Mian, Afsar; Surahio, Mohammad Ibrahim (1983). "Biology of Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii) with reference to Baluchistan.". J. Bombay Nat. His. Soc. 80: 111–118.
- Sashikumar, C (1989). "Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata: a rare record from Kerala.". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (1): 101.
- Cordeaux, John (1896). "Occurrence of MacQueen's Bustard in East Yorkshire". The Naturalist: 323–324.
- Howse, Richard (1894). "On the occurrence on the North-East Coast of Yorkshire of a Ruffed-Bustard, Otis houbara, Gmelin, commonly known as Macqueen's Bustard, Otis Macqueenii, J.E.Gray". Natural history transactions of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-on-Tyne 11: 345–350.
- Thorburn, A. (1916). British Birds. Volume 4. London: Longmans, Green and Co. p. 2.
- Jobson, Gerald J.; Small, Brian J. (2004). "From the Rarities Committee's files: The Macqueen’s Bustard in Suffolk in 1962". British Birds 97: 68–72.
- van Heezik, Yoland; Seddon, Philip J. (1999). "Seasonal changes in habitat use by Houbara Bustards Chlamydotis [undulata] macqueenii in northern Saudi Arabia". Ibis 141: 208–215. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919x.1999.tb07543.x.
- Launay, F.; Roshier, D.; Loughland, R.; Aspinall, S.J. (1997). "Habitat use by houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii) in arid shrubland in the United Arab Emirates". Journal of Arid Environments 35 (1): 111–121. doi:10.1006/jare.1995.0136.
- Osborne, Patrick E.; Launay, Frédéric; Gliddon, Derek (1997). "Wintering habitat use by houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata in Abu Dhabi and implications for management". Biological Conservation 81: 51–56. doi:10.1016/s0006-3207(96)00157-7.
- Aghanajafizadeh, Shirin; Hemami, Mahmoud R.; Heydari, Fatholah (2012). "Nest-site selection by the Asian Houbara Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii, in the steppe of Harat, Iran". Zoology in the Middle East 57 (1): 11–18. doi:10.1080/09397140.2012.10648958.
- Launay, Frederic; Paillat, Patrick (1990). "A behavioural repertoire of the adult houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii)". Rev. Ecol. (Terre Vie) 45: 65–88.
- van Heezik, Yolanda; Seddon, Philip J. (1998). "Ontogeny of Behavior of Hand-reared and Hen-reared Captive Houbara Bustards". Zoo Biology 17: 245–255. doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-2361(1998)17:3<245::aid-zoo7>3.0.co;2-9.
- Ali, Salim; Ripley, Dillon S. (1980). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 2. Megapodes to Crab Plover (2 ed.). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 191–193.
- Tigar, Barbara J.; Osborne, Patrick E. (2000). "Invertebrate diet of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis [undulata] macqueenii in Abu Dhabi from calibrated faecal analysis". Ibis 142 (3): 466–475. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2000.tb04443.x.
- Nadeem, M.S.; Ali, F.; Akhtar, S. (2004). "Diet of houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata in Punjab, Pakistan.". Forktail 20: 91–93.
- Baker, E.C. Stuart (1921). The game-birds of India, Burma and Ceylon. Snipe, bustards and sand-grouse. Volume 2.. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society. pp. 186–197.
- Weaver, Mary Anne (December 14, 1992). "Hunting with the Sheikhs". The New Yorker: 51–64.
- Bhagwandas (4 December 2011). "Houbara hunting permits issued to Gulf dignitaries". Dawn. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Christophe Tourenq; Olivier Combreau;Sergey B. Pole; Mark Lawrence;Vladimir S. Ageyev; Alekzey A. Karpov and Frédéric Launay (2004). "Monitoring of Asian houbara bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii populations in Kazakhstan reveals dramatic decline". Oryx 38 (01): 62–67. doi:10.1017/S0030605304000109.
- Tourenq, Christophe ; Olivier Combreau; Mark Lawrence; Serguei B Pole; Andrew Spalton; Gao Xinji; Mohammed Al Baidani; Frédéric Launay (2005). "Alarming houbara bustard population trends in Asia". Biological Conservation 121 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.031.
- Gelinaud, G.; Combreau, O.; Seddon, P.J. (1997). "First breeding by captive-bred houbara bustards introduced in central Saudi Arabia". Journal of Arid Environments 35: 527–534. doi:10.1006/jare.1996.0155.
- Jalme, M. Saint; Gaucher, P.; Paillat, P. (1994). "Artificial insemination in Houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata): influence of the number of spermatozoa and insemination frequency on fertility and ability to hatch". Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 100: 93–103. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.1000093.
- Bailey, T.A.; Samour, J.H.; Bailey, T.C. (1998). "Hunted by falcons, protected by falconry: Can the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii) fly into the 21st century?". Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 12 (3): 190–201.
- Greth, Arnaud; Andral, Bruno; Gerbermann, Hermann; Vassart, Marc; Gerlach, Helga; Launay, Frederic (1993). "Chlamydiosis in a Captive Group of Houbara Bustards (Chlamydotis undulata)". Avian Diseases 37 (4): 1117–1120. doi:10.2307/1591923.
- Samour, J. H.; Kaaden, O-R; Wernery, U.; Bailey, T. A. (1996). "An Epornitic of Avian Pox in Houbara Bustards: (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii)". Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Series B 43: 287–292. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0450.1996.tb00316.x.
- Tourenq, Christophe; Combreau, Olivier; Lawrence, Mark; Launay, Frederic (2004). "Migration patterns of four Asian Houbara Chlamydotis macqueenii wintering in the Cholistan Desert, Punjab, Pakistan.". Bird Conservation International 14: 1–10. doi:10.1017/S0959270904000012.
- Judas, Jacky; Combreau, Olivier; Lawrence, Mark; Saleh, Mohammed; Launay, Frederic; Xingyi, Gao (2006). "Migration and range use of Asian Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii breeding in the Gobi Desert, China, revealed by satellite tracking". Ibis 148 (2): 343–351. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00546.x.
- Lavee, Daphna (1988). "Why is the Houbara Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii still an endangered species in Israel?". Biological Conservation 45 (1): 47–54. doi:10.1016/0006-3207(88)90051-1.
- Koshkin, Maxim A.; Collar, Nigel J.; Dolman, Paul M. (2014). "Do sheep affect distribution and habitat of Asian Houbara Chlamydotis macqueenii?". Journal of Arid Environments 103: 53–62. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2014.01.002.
- Goriup, Paul D. (1997). "The world status of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata". Bird Conservation International 7 (4): 373–397. doi:10.1017/S0959270900001714.
- Tourenq, Christophe; Combreau, Olivier; Lawrence, Mark; Pole, Serguei B.; Spalton, Andrew; Xinji, Gao; Al Baidani, Mohammed; Launay, Frederic (2005). Biological Conservation 121: 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.031.