The Great Bustard, Asian Houbara Bustard, and Little Bustard are iconic species of the Eurasian steppes. The long-distance migrations and rapid growth of these birds in Eurasia are adaptations to harsh continental weather. Their predilection for walking and simple nests on the ground are fitting for the region’s treeless grassland and desert expanses.
Though they may live close to human settlements and in agricultural fields, where they consume insect pests, many residents are unaware of their presence. This is due to the cryptic coloration and wary nature of these birds, which is a matter of survival for species which have been hunted for millennia.
These heavy-bodied birds also perform spectacular breeding displays, and exhibit extreme sexual dimorphisms. These stem from the ‘lek’ breeding system of these species, in which males compete for female attention at traditional gathering sites each spring.
Eurasian bustards face a variety of threats, including poaching, poisoning, collisions with overhead cabling, and incompatible agricultural practices. The fact that they roam over large territories annually is challenging for their conservation, but makes them excellent ambassadors for landscape-level conservation and sustainable agriculture.
Our group, the Eurasian Bustard Alliance (formerly Central Asian Great Bustard Project), brings together researchers from across northern Eurasia and the USA to work towards the conservation of bustard species. We aim to expand scientific knowledge of poorly understood populations of these birds with an emphasis on gathering information with conservation implications and engaging local people in the research process. We also promote awareness of these species and advance conservation policy.