Tetrax tetrax


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Tetrax tetrax
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Little Bustard
Spanish Sisón

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Andryucshenko, Y., Bretagnolle, V., García, E., Jolivet, C., Martínez, C., Petkov, N. & Antonchikov, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Capper, D., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A., Taylor, J.
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is probably experiencing a moderately rapid overall population decline, driven by rapid declines in the west of its range, owing mainly to habitat loss and degradation, as well as low-level hunting pressure. Recent increases in the east of its range are so far unquantified, and require further study. Such data may have implications for the overall population trend and listing of the species.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Tetrax tetrax has two widely separated breeding populations. In its eastern range it occurs in Russia (likely to have been previously underestimated at 9,000 displaying males as 14,000-17,000 individuals were reported in one region alone [Orenburg] in the last two years [A. Antonchikov in litt. 2012]), Georgia (60 non-breeding individuals [E. García in litt. 2007]), Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan (c.20,000 individuals and likely to be increasing [N. Petkov in litt. 2012]), Ukraine (100-110 individuals [Y. Andryuschenko in litt. 1999]), north-west China, northern Iran and Turkey (20-100 pairs [Eken and Magnin 1999]). Its western range covers Spain (71-147,000 individuals comprising 41,482-86,195 breeding males [García de la Morena, et al. 2006], down from 100,000-200,000 males in the 1990s [De Juana and Martínez 1996]) and Portugal (c.17,500 displaying males [E. García in litt. 2007]), with smaller populations in Italy (1,515-2,220 individuals [E. García in litt. 2007]), France (1,677-1875 displaying males in 2008 [Jolivet 2009]) and Morocco. Eastern populations winter from Turkey and the Caucasus to Iran, and erratically elsewhere in south Asia, with Azerbaijan holding the main wintering quarters (over 150,000 individuals in 2005-2006 [Gauger 2007, E. García in litt. 2007]) and sightings in the winter of 2010 report 25,000 and 50,000-70, 000 individuals in Adjinohur valley and Shirvan National Park respectively (Gauger and Heiß 2010). Western populations winter in the Mediterranean zone, with the Iberian peninsula holding the most important wintering quarters (a minimum of 16,429-35,929 and 11,200 individuals in Spain and Portugal, respectively) (E. García in litt. 2007). The global population (excluding Kazakhstan) was estimated at a minimum of c.240,000 individuals in the late 1990s (C. Martínez in litt. 1999), but it may be substantially lower than this, due to the re-evaluation of the size of the Spanish population (García et al. 2007). Whilst it remains widespread and numerous, in some parts of its range it has declined dramatically since the 19th century, leading to extinctions in at least 11 European countries, Algeria, Tunisia and probably as a breeding bird in Azerbaijan. The species has now disappeared from mainland Italy, where it occurred in Apulia, and it is presently declining in France and Spain (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). In Portugal, the population appears to be stable, and eastern populations are said to have increased in recent years (E. García in litt. 2007). The population in the Eurasian steppe belt is thought to have recovered due to an increase in fallow land during the transition process of the former Soviet Union (Gauger 2007).

Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; China; Croatia; France; Georgia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Morocco; Pakistan; Portugal; Russian Federation; Spain; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine
Regionally extinct:
Algeria; Austria; Belarus; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Moldova; Montenegro; Poland; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia
Belgium; Cyprus; Denmark; Finland; Ireland; Japan; Latvia; Luxembourg; Malta; Netherlands; Norway; Oman; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Sweden; Switzerland; United Kingdom
Present - origin uncertain:
Jordan; Libya; Romania; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population (excluding c.20,000 individuals in Kazakhstan) has been estimated at a minimum of c.240,000 individuals (C. Martínez in litt. 1999).
For further information about this species, see 22691896_tetrax_tetrax.pdf.
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Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits dry grassland and, in Europe, it also occurs in areas of low-intensity arable cultivation and pastoral land, selecting areas with a high diversity of ground cover such as mosaics of pasture, stubble fields, long-rotation fallow land and legume crops. The species has been observed to form mixed-species flocks with Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata in Iberian regions and France (Martin et al. 2010). Wintering birds in Azerbaijan prefer semi-desert and steppe areas under winter pasturing, and avoid areas of intensive agriculture (Gauger 2007).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary cause of its decline has been conversion of dry grassland and low-intensity cultivation to intensive arable agriculture, especially where this has included the planting of monocultures or perennial crops, irrigation or afforestation. The fragmentation of traditional habitats, by means of agricultural intensification or infrastructure development, negatively affects habitat availability and quality for the species, as well as male density (E. García in litt. 2007, García et al. 2007) as displaying males exhibit a preference for old and same-year fallows which offer shelter and food (Delgado et al. 2010). The use of pesticides could reduce food availability (E. García in litt. 2007). Harvesting with modern farm machinery, operated at high speed and often during the night, is the key threat to females and nests in Europe and is the cause for the observed male-biased sex structure and low fecundity (Iñigo and Barov 2010). Farm machinery accounts for 40% of clutch failure in southwest France (Inchausti and Bretagnolle 2005). Conversion to intensive arable agriculture continues to be the primary threat and cause of continuing declines in Europe (E. García in litt. 2007) and is predicted to cause declines in the eastern population in the near future (Kamp et al. in press). It also suffers from illegal hunting (Y. Andryuschenko in litt. 1999), although this is a minor threat (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). The collision of birds with overhead powerlines is a locally important cause of mortality (E. García in litt. 2007). The release of farm-reared gamebirds could eventually introduce new pathogens to wild populations of T. tetrax (E. García in litt. 2007). In Azerbaijan, the main threats are disturbance from intensive land use (mainly heavy grazing), habitat loss to infrastructure development and probably hunting (Gauger 2007). Climate change effects could lead to shorter rainy seasons and reduced winter precipitation in Southern Europe which could have a detrimental effect on habitat quality for the species (Delgado et al. 2009, Delgado and Moreira 2010)

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. A European action plan was published in 2001 (E. García in litt. 2007), its implementation reviewed in 2010 (Barov and Derhé 2011) and updated in 2010 (Iñigo and Barov 2010). A species action plan for the species in Sardinia is in preparation. In Catalonia, Management Plans for the SPA with a Little Bustard population have been developed. The species has been the subject of several LIFE Nature projects in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. France and Spain have attempted a joint programme of reinforcement of the populations in Central and Western France by release of captive-bred chicks during 2006-2009. In France, targeted agri-environmental measures (MAET) have been developed and tested in the region of Poitou-Charentes. Management agreements have been elaborated and signed with farmers, which are believed to have led to an increase of the affected populations (Leitão et al. 2006, Bamière et al. 2011, Bretagnolle et al. 2011). In France, Spain and Portugal national census takes place every 5 (4 in France) years. The number of protected areas established in steppe habitats in those countries has increased.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out coordinated surveys to obtain an up-to-date estimate for the total population. Continue to conduct surveys to monitor population trends. Preserve habitat and alter land-use practices through EU and national policies. Work with land-owners to manage land favourably and reduce hunting. Reduce hunting pressure through awareness campaigns. Ensure fields with permanent cover on arable land through agri-environmental schemes using rotations and fallow land. Eliminate dangerous powerlines.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Tetrax tetrax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 05 September 2015.
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