Tetrax tetrax 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Otidiformes Otididae

Scientific Name: Tetrax tetrax
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Little Bustard
Spanish Sisón
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Andryucshenko, Y., Bretagnolle, V., Jolivet, C., Martínez, C., Petkov, N., Antonchikov, A., García de la Morena, E., Kamp, J. & Praveen, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Capper, D., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, 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; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd. Recent increases in the east of its range are so far unquantified, and require further study.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2012 Near Threatened (NT)
2008 Near Threatened (NT)
2004 Near Threatened (NT)
2000 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1994 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species 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] although this is thought to be an underestimate [J. Kamp in litt. 2015]), Ukraine (100-110 individuals [Y. Andryuschenko in litt. 1999]), north-west China, northern Iran and Turkey (5-50 breeding males [BirdLife International 2015]). Its western range covers Spain (71-147,000 individuals comprising 41,482-86,195 breeding males [García de la Morena, et al. 2006, BirdLife International 2015], down from 100,000-200,000 males in the 1990s [De Juana and Martínez 1996]) and Portugal (13,250-21,771 breeding males [BirdLife International 2015]), with smaller populations in Italy (352 breeding males [BirdLife International 2015]), France (1,350-2,350 displaying males [BirdLife International 2015]) and Morocco.

Eastern populations winter from Turkey and the Caucasus to Iran (estimated 5,000-10,000 wintering birds [Sehhatisabet et al. 2012]), 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 more than 100,000 in autumn 2011 [Heiss 2013]) 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) and the latest European assessment estimated 122,000-240,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). 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 strongly in Spain (46% decline between 1998 and 2012 [BirdLife International 2015]). In Portugal, the population appears to be stable, and eastern populations are said to have increased in recent years (E. García in litt. 2007) although the most recent assessment for the European Red List of Birds did not provide a trend direction for the Portuguese population. 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).

Countries occurrence:
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
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 990000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
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) was previously estimated at a minimum of c. 240,000 individuals (C. Martínez in litt. 1999). The European population alone was recently estimated to be 122,000-240,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The eastern population is likely to be of a similar size to the Iberian population (J. Kamp in litt. 2015). The population is therefore placed in the band 100,000-499,999 individuals.

Trend Justification:  The European population is estimated to be declining by 30-49% in three generations (30.9 years) (BirdLife International 2015). There is little evidence to suggest that the population in Kazakhstan has declined and surveys in central and northern Kazakhstan show that densities did not decrease between 2008-2009 and 2015 (J. Kamp in litt. 2015). Wintering flocks in Azerbaijan are not thought to have declined (J. Kamp in litt. 2015). Given that Europe holds around 40% of the global breeding range, but may hold as much as 80-90% of the global population and the Central Asian population may be exposed to the same threats as the western European population (e.g. agricultural change [Kamp et al. 2011] and power lines [Voronova et al. 2012]), the overall population is estimated to be in moderately rapid decline.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 100

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 (Morales et al. 2013) 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
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 10.3
Movement patterns: Full Migrant

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 and Research 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 five (four in France) years. The number of protected areas established in steppe habitats in those countries has increased.

Conservation and Research 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. 2015. Tetrax tetrax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22691896A84041667. . Downloaded on 30 November 2015.
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