Ardeotis australis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ardeotis australis
Species Authority: (Gray, 1829)
Common Name(s):
English Australian Bustard

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Bishop, K., Garnett, S., Mathieson, M., Woinarski, J. & Ziembicki, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

This species has been downlisted to Least Concern as it is no longer believed to have experienced a moderately rapid population reduction in the past three generations (47 years).  Population loss in southern Australia occurred prior to this period, and the population in north is now relatively stable. While local scarcity can occur, possibly caused by hunting or fire, the population almost certainly exceeds 10,000 mature individuals and has an extremely large range. The species therefore does approach any of the thresholds for classification as Vulnerable.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Ardeotis australis occurs across continental Australia and occasionally in southern Papua New Guinea and Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Indonesia. The total population is thought number less than 100,000 birds (S. Garnett in litt. 2003), and almost certainly more than 10,000 mature individuals (Garnett et al. 2011), with the majority occurring in northern Australia. It is rarely recorded on the plains of south-western Papua New Guinea. It has all but disappeared from south-eastern Australia, and is less abundant elsewhere, particularly south of the tropics. Local population size varies strongly with rainfall (Ziembicki and Woinarski 2007) making assessment of trends difficult, however population loss in southern Australia is believed to have been largely historical, and the population in the north is thought to be relatively stable. Satellite-tracking has provided substantial information on dispersal in this species, suggesting that populations in higher-rainfall northern Australia undergo relatively local dispersal, whereas those in lower-rainfall areas may undergo far more substantial regional and inter-regional movements (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). In southern and central Queensland, this species appears to move eastwards in autumn, retracting westwards later in the year (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Australia; Indonesia; Papua New Guinea
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated at under 100,000 individuals (S. Garnett in litt. 2003).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits grassland, including tussock grassland, Triodia hummock grassland, grassy woodland, low shrublands, and structurally similar artificial habitats, such as croplands and golf-courses. It will also use denser vegetation, when this has been temporarily opened up by recent burning. It lays one, or occasionally two, eggs on the ground, where possible along a boundary between open grasslands and more protective shrubland or woodlands (Marchant and Higgins 1993). In northern Australia it may disperse widely to follow recently-burnt grounds (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Its widespread historical decline was probably caused by a combination of intensive agriculture, invasion of pastoral land by woody weeds, hunting, changes to fire regimes and predation by the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes (Harrington et al. 1984, Marchant and Higgins 1993, J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). It readily deserts nests in response to disturbance by humans, sheep or cattle (Marchant and Higgins 1993). Pesticides, either directly or indirectly ingested, are also held responsible for local extinctions (Ziembicki and Woinarski 2007). The area where it has declined corresponds with the distribution of foxes in Australia, a distribution that may be slowly expanding northwards. Traditional and illegal hunting by people is also considerable and may be contributing to the perceived decline in northern and central Australia (Garnett and Crowley 2000). Across northern Australia it may be less common in areas invaded by woody weeds. Local increases in abundance have occurred in parts of northern Australia in response to recent clearing (Garnett and Crowley 2000) and subsequent horticultural development, but this effect may dissipate as agriculture intensifies (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Studies have taken place which examine the ecology and movements of this species in northern Australia (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). This research provided estimates of its population density at several sites, and established reliable and robust methodologies for estimating abundance (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). Non-traditional hunting is banned in all Australian states and territories.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Consolidate existing vehicle-based bustard counts and relate them to land use. Assess data available from annual kangaroo and feral animal surveys to give information on numbers in remote areas. Monitor population trends. Initiate studies of factors affecting breeding success. Quantify traditional hunting pressure and work towards regulation of take as necessary. Work with land managers to alter land-use practices so that areas of favourable habitat are created and maintained.

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