The Great Bustard is Back in The UK

Genus: Otis Tarda

The great bustard is Europe’s largest European land bird, with a wingspan of eight feet (240 cm) and a head to tail length of four feet (240 cms). The giant soarer, weighing 14 kg (31 pounds) became extinct in the UK when the last bird was shot in 1832. Recently, a new population of forty birds have been introduced successfully on Salisbury Plain, United Kingdom with one hundred now living on the plains.

Over 60% of great bustards can be found in Spain and Portugal with colonies also found at the Russian steppes and northern Morocco. There are believed to be 23 species of bustard with the great bustard, the most famous and largest. Only the great Indian bustard and kori bustard are similar in size. Notwithstanding the UK bustards are dispersed in southern Europe, Asia, Africa Australia, and part of New Guinea.

The Great Bustard is Back in The UK
The Great Bustard is Back in The UK

Salisbury plains is a perfect place for the new flock of great bustards as the public is only allowed on the vast space of fields with permission from the Royal army. this leaves the birds in peace to feed and live without stress or harm. Read on for details about the great bustard organization in the UK.

Physical Appearance and Mating

Great bustard males grow from 30% to 5 times larger larger than females which is the greatest sexual dimorphism in the bird world. There necks are muscular and long looking adorned in white plumage which stretches covering their breasts and under bellies. Their legs are dark and long. Brown and black speckled feathers cover the back and upper wings and as the males age a russet hint frames their chests.

The brown speckled feathers distinguish these birds from looking like geese from afar. The females have a darker colored neck which offers more camouflage in fields of tall flora. When flying the large birds appear largely white due to the white plumage with dark browns fringing the wings.

Flocks of females and adults stay apart until mating season when males will perform a competition to win females. Males inflate pouches and strut with the aim to impress and mate with more females. The male’s tail will stand vertical in a ridge as it charges and it will splay its wings wide.

One to three beige coloured, shiny eggs are laid by the females in early summer months of May or June. Nests are made of slopes and are simple scraped earth shallow nests and are usually dug near the prior lek area.

What do Great Bustards Feed on?

Oilseed rape is their most popular feed which is available in Europe during the winter, though they will eat voles, mice, meal worms and other small rodents. Great bustards are omnivores which helps them survive through the seasons in the wild. From 3 years, males have long white neck bristles, which measure up to 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in) and keep growing until 6 years.

The Great Bustard is Back in The UK
Great Bustard can Grow an 8 Feet Wingspan

Great Bustards Reintroduced in the UK

The Great bustard organisation rears chicks with adult puppets as the chicks can’t feed themselves and they need feeding every hour. After a week they are able to peck at food. The wide spaces have created a self sustaining flock of over a hundred birds. Great bustard eggs are imported from farms in Russia. the Russia Government gave the orgaisation permission to take 6o eggs a year.

  • Female’s weight range from 3.1 to 8 kg (6.8 to 17.6 lb
  • Male’s range in weight from 5.8 to 18 kg (13 to 40 lb).

Fantastic facts About the Great Bustard

  • Otis is the old Greek name for Bustard while Tarda means, ‘slow and deliberate.’
  • The great bustard appears on the coat of arms of Salisbury.
  • Many of the bustards were imported from the largest known population in Russia.


Do Great Bustards Fly away when threatened?

Great bustards are more likely to run a way than flap away.

Are great bustards migratory birds?

Great Bustards in Russia will migrate between 1000 and 2000 kms as far as China in response to weather extremes.

Have there been setbacks in the Salisbury Plain bustard plan?

Of the first 60 bustards only 20 survived but within 2 years chicks were born

What noises do great bustards make?

Adult great bustards are usually silent but make a continuous gruff bark during mating season or when challenging an intruder to their territory.

Do young great bustards make noises?

Young great bustards make a whistling sound

Read more about the bustard’s re-introduction to the UK here at – A website detailing the Great Bustards into the UK.

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