Otis tarda 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Otidiformes Otididae

Scientific Name: Otis tarda Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Great Bustard
Spanish Avutarda, Avutarda Común
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. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 75-105 cm. Large, grey-and-brown bustard. Grey head and neck, brown barred black above. White underparts with reddish-brown breast-band, developing with age in males. Males significantly larger than females and develop a gular pouch and long white whiskers during the breeding season. Upright stance and deliberate walk. In flight, powerful regular wing beats resemble an eagle, but does not glide. Voice Displaying males make hollow umb sound. Alarm call a short, nasal bark. Young birds have a soft, trilling call.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+3cd+4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Alonso, J. C., Andryucshenko, Y., Antonchikov, A., Goriup, P., Nagy, S., Kessler, M., Barati, A. & Karataş, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Peet, N., Symes, A., Ashpole, J
This species has suffered rapid population reductions across most of its range owing to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, as well as hunting. Although populations in its Iberian stronghold have stabilised and possibly increased, hunting in Central and East Asia results in high rates of adult mortality, and land-use changes in eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia may have a significant impact on this species's population and the extent of its remaining habitat, such that it is likely to continue declining at a rapid rate over the next three generations. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable. Should research show the species to be declining at a more moderate rate, it would warrant downlisting to a lower category of threat.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species breeds in Morocco (91-108 birds), Portugal (701 males), Spain (13,750-16,500 males), Austria (120-140 males), Germany (43 males), Slovakia (0-5 males), Hungary (500-609 males), Serbia and Montenegro (5 males), Romania (30-40 males), Turkey (700-1180 individuals [M. M. Karataş in litt. 2016]), Iran (43-48 birds [Barati et al. 2015]), Russia (8,000-12,000 birds, 1,370-1,800 males in European Russia [BirdLife International 2015]), 500 individuals of the Asian subspecies in Eastern Russia (M. Kessler in litt. 2016), Ukraine (500-720 males), Kazakhstan (0-300 birds), Mongolia (c.1,000 birds [Palacín and Alonso 2008]), and China (c.500-3,300 birds [Chan and Goroshko 1998, Alonso and Palacín 2010, M. Kessler in litt. 2012]); and a reintroduction scheme is currently taking place in the United Kingdom. Its Palearctic range is becoming increasingly disjunct and there have been rapid declines and some extinctions throughout eastern and central Europe (Bulgaria, Poland, Moldova [Palacín and Alonso 2008], Czech Republic [BirdLife International 2015]). Numbers have almost certainly declined in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey and Morocco, and in most of the eastern distribution range (Chan and Goroshko 1998, Barati and Amerifar 2008, Palacín and Alonso 2008, M. M. Karataş in litt. 2016), along a with a range contraction due to the disappearance of smaller populations across the species's range (e.g. in Iberia [Alonso et al. 2003, Alonso et al. 2004] and Hungary [Faragó 1993]). The species is now absent from much of its range in Iran, with West Azarbayjan the only region where conditions remain suitable for the species (Barati et al. 2015). Over the past half century the species has only rarely been sighted in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan where the species once bred (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). In contrast, the species has increased in Hungary, Austria, and Germany, Spain and Portugal (Alonso and Palacín 2010, BirdLife International 2015). The previous fluctuating trend in Russia has changed to a rapid decrease during recent years (Antonchikov 2008, 2011) with a decrease of 68-70% estimated for the period 1999-2011 (BirdLife International 2015). Only a small number of birds (~40) continue to breed in the Russian Caucasus and the species is listed locally as Extinct or Critically Endangered in most of the Russian steppe zone (Kessler 2016, M. Kessler in litt. 2016). Recent trends are unknown in some parts of Asia. The world population is estimated to be between 44,054 and 57,005 individuals, of which 57-70% occur in Spain and 15-25% along the lower Volga River (Alonso and Palacín 2010, Kessler 2014). Only c.1,200-2,000 (c.4% of the global population) of the eastern subspecies remain in east Asia (Kessler 2014).The European population is estimated at 17,100-20,800 males equating to 34,200-41,500 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). 

Most populations of the western subspecies are partially migratory and 8,000-10,000 birds occur on passage or in winter in Ukraine arriving from the lower Volga River (Y. Andryucshenko in litt. 1999, M. Kessler in litt. 2016). In the past birds from northern Central Asia overwintered in large numbers in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, as well as Uzbekistan, and north-east Iran, sightings are now rare in these countries (Kessler and Smith 2014). The eastern subspecies breeds in Mongolia, eastern Russia, and north-east China is fully migratory, spending four months on migratory stopovers and four months on wintering grounds in central China (Kessler et al. 2013, M. Kessler in litt. 2016). 

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Armenia; Austria; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Italy; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia); Serbia; Slovakia; Spain; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; Uzbekistan
Possibly extinct:
Regionally extinct:
Belarus; Poland
Albania; Belgium; Cyprus; Denmark; Egypt; Finland; Gibraltar; Ireland; Israel; Japan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Latvia; Lebanon; Luxembourg; Malta; Netherlands; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Tunisia
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:20100000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Alonso (2014) estimates the global population to number 43,847 – 56,695 individuals, rounded here to 44,000-57,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  Despite a lack of accurate data on trends in several countries with important populations (e.g. Russia, Mongolia, China), a rapid and on-going population decline is suspected overall, owing to habitat loss and fragmentation for agricultural intensification, as well as hunting and collision with power lines. In Iran the species has disappeared from much of its range probably owing to agricultural intensification (Barati et al. 2015). Within Europe the overall population trend is declining (BirdLife International 2015). Should research show the species to be declining at a more moderate rate, it would warrant downlisting to a lower threat category.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Originally a species of the Eurasian steppe, this species has acclimated to agricultural landscapes (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). It occurs in open, flat or somewhat rolling landscapes, usually with a mixture of crops (cereals, vineyards, fodder plants, in some countries also with steppic grassland [J. C. Alonso in litt. 2012]). The eastern subspecies inhabits both open steppe and forest steppe, including small forest openings (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). Areas with little or no disturbance and abundant supply of insects are required for successful breeding (Y. Andryucshenko in litt. 1999). Nest sites are selected in grassland, fallow or cereal fields (primarily alfalfa in Central Europe and wheat in Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan [M. Kessler in litt. 2016]) in areas of low patch-type diversity, far from human infrastructure and with good horizontal visibility (Magaña et al. 2010). The eastern subspecies nests in agricultural mosaics, open steppe, and adjacent to forest edge (Kessler 2015). Highly variable migratory behaviour across populations, including obligate winter migrants (Asia, Russia), facultative migrants (central European populations) and partial winter and summer migrants with differential migratory pattern by sex (Iberian populations) (Morales et al. 2000, Alonso et al. 2000, 2001, Palacín et al. 2009, 2011).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):10
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Key threats are increased habitat degradation, fragmentation and loss due to agricultural intensification, land-use changes and infrastructure development which has the potential to increase following land privatisation in eastern Europe (S. Nagy in litt. 1999, 2007, Nagy 2009) and Central Asia and is occurring in China (Chan and Goroshko 1998, M. Kessler in litt. 2016). Habitat loss and fragmentation continues as a result of ploughing of grasslands, intensive grazing, afforestation and increasing development of irrigation schemes, roads, power-lines, fencing and ditches. Mechanisation, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, fire and predation all contribute to high mortality in eggs, chicks, juveniles and incubating females (Nagy 2009). Hunting is a major threat in Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia (Y. Andryucshenko in litt. 1999, Chan and Goroshko 1998, P. Goriup in litt. 2007, Karakaş and Akarsu 2009, M. Kessler in litt. 2012, 2016, M. M. Karataş  in litt. 2016) and is expected to intensify as the paved road network in Mongolia expands. International tourists are known to hunt the species in East Asia (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). The species is also vulnerable to the indiscriminate poisoning of wild birds for trade in China (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). Collision with power lines (J. C. Alonso in litt. 2007, Nagy 2009, M. Kessler in litt. 2012) and wind turbines are also significant threats (S. Nagy in litt. 2012). The impacts of climate change may increasingly affect the species in Asia with harsh winter weather causing adult mortality and heavier summer rainfall leading to loss of clutches (M. Kessler in litt. 2016). 

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II, CMS Appendix I and II and CMS MoU for Middle European Populations in place since 2002. EU Wild Birds Directive Annex I, Bern Convention Annex II, Bonn Convention Annex I (S. Nagy in litt. 1999, 2007, P. Goriup in litt. 2007). A European action plan was published in 1996 and updated in 2009 (Nagy 2009) and an action plan for east Asian populations in 1998 (Chan and Goroshko 1998). Agri-environmental and land management programmes have been (successfully) implemented in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Serbia. Hunting of the species has been prohibited by the Central Hunting Commission in Turkey since 1977, an action plan was published in 2004 (Doğa Derneği ve T.C. Çevre ve Orman Bakanlığı, Doğa Koruma ve Milli Parklar Genel Müdürlüğü 2004) and survey counts have been successfully carried out across the country (M. M. Karataş in litt. 2016). Artificial incubation and chick rearing projects have been established in Germany and Hungary since the 1970s. A UK reintroduction project began in 2003 with chicks imported from the Russian Federation and later Spain (Dawes 2008) that has established a small population, although continued monitoring and supplementing is still needed (Burnside et al. 2012). A LIFE Nature project for the species was implemented in Hungary during 2004-2008 with the aim of increasing in-situ protection of the species (Bankovics and Lóránt 2008). Other LIFE projects for the species have been implemented in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Slovakia.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct nationwide surveys in countries with currently low quality estimates, to confirm worldwide numbers and trends. Research limiting factors. Research wintering distribution in Russia, Ukraine and Asia. Protect and manage breeding and wintering areas. Upgrade existing and establish new protected areas in east Asia. Implement agri-environment measures for low-intensity farming. Prevent steppe fires, stubble burning, illegal hunting and collision with power-lines. Raise public awareness. Research wintering movements in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia (M. M. Karataş in litt. 2016).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Otis tarda. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22691900A90337411. . Downloaded on 17 November 2017.
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