Chlamydotis undulata


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Chlamydotis undulata
Species Authority: (Jacquin, 1784)
Common Name/s:
English Houbara Bustard, Houbara
French Outarde houbara, Houbara ondulé
Spanish Avutarda Hubara, Hubara
Taxonomic Notes: Chlamydotis undulata (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into C. undulata and C. macqueenii by several authors (Sangster 1996, Sangster et al. 1999, Knox et al. 2002). However, following review of the most comprehensive summary of differences between the two taxa by Gaucher et al. (1996) the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group reject this treatment because reported differences are small and there remains uncertainty over the consistency of differences between the two taxa. With more evidence on fully consistent ethological differences across the ranges of the two forms, this may change.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bcd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor/s: BirdLife International
Reviewer/s: Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor/s: Collar, N., Combreau, O., González, C., Iñigo, A., Launay, F., Lorenzo, J. & Islam, Z.
Facilitator/s: Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Collar, N., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Pople, R., Khwaja, N.
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has undergone rapid population declines over three generations (20 years) owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels, as well as habitat degradation.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Chlamydotis undulata occurs in a wide range across North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia, in three subspecies. Race fuertaventurae is confined to the eastern Canary Islands, Spain. Race undulata occupies North African countries as follows: northernmost Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt west of the Nile with old records from Sudan. Race macqueenii extends from Egypt east of the Nile through Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E., Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia to China, with unconfirmed reports from Azerbaijan and Turkey (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997). The population of race fuertaventurae in the mid-1990s was estimated at 527 birds, with 18 on La Graciosa, 268 on Lanzarote and 241 on Fuerteventura, although an apparently independent assessment put the total population at 147-882 birds (Carrascal and Alonso 2005). More recent estimates place the population at 108-252 birds on Fuerteventura, 272-801 on Lanzarote and 3-10 on La Graciosa (Carrascal et al. 2006), whilst another census estimated the population at around 1,000 birds on the all the islands, with 384-459 on Fuerteventura, 383-806 on Lanzarote and 11-17 on La Graciosa (Lorenzo et al. 2007). The population of nominate undulata in the mid-1990s was estimated to be at least 9,800 individuals, of which over 50% were in Algeria, 30% in Morocco and 10% in Libya (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in North Africa has not been considered achievable (without huge confidence limits). Instead, it has been roughly estimated that the region holds around 30% of the total population. Although this subspecies showed a steady decline of c.25% in the 20 years preceding 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), this trend has since been reversed by a successful captive breeding and release programme in east Morocco and west Algeria, and the overall population of undulata is now thought to be increasing (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). The population of race macqueenii in the mid-1990s was estimated to be in the range 39,000-52,000, of which over 75% were in Kazakhstan and 15% in Uzbekistan (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in the Middle East and central Asia has also not been considered achievable without huge confidence limits. Instead, the region has been broken into two, west Asia (the resident population distributed from the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan and Uzbekistan) with around 20% of the total population, and east Asia (the migrant population distributed from Kazakhstan to China) with around 50%. With no new information on the rate of decline in west Asia, that of c.25% estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is retained here. The species has declined "sharply" in east Asia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). Whilst this rate has been highly variable (ranging from a 40% increase in east Kazakhstan to a 90% decline in west Kazakhstan), an overall decline rate of c.40-50% as estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is thought to remain sensible. The species showed a general decline of c.35% from 1984-2004, but trends now are likely to be less severe given the arrested decline in North Africa.  If 50% (east Asia) of the species is declining by 40-50%, 20% (west Asia) is declining by c.25%, and the remaining 30% (North Africa) is now increasing (at a conservative estimate, by 1-10%) the global population is currently declining by c.20-29%.

Afghanistan; Algeria; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bhutan; China; Egypt; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Libya; Mauritania; Mongolia; Morocco; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Saudi Arabia; Spain; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Yemen
Regionally extinct:
Austria; Belgium; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Italy; Latvia; Lebanon; Malta; Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Slovakia; Slovenia; Sudan; Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Present - origin uncertain:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population in Kazakhstan was estimated at c.49,000 in 2011. Added to a population likely to number 4,000-6,000 birds in China and Mongolia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012), this gives an estimate of 53,000-55,000 for the east Asian migrant population. This is thought to represent around 50% of the global population, and so a very preliminary estimate of the global population is 106,000-110,000 individuals. This is placed in the band 100,000-499,999 individuals to account for uncertainty.

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: All subspecies inhabit sandy and stony semi-desert and are specialised to existence in arid conditions where trees are absent and both shrub cover and herb layer are sparse (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Martí and del Moral 2003). Scrub forest is used in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). They feed on invertebrates, small vertebrates and green shoots, and typically lay 2-4 eggs in a scrape on the ground. Eggs and young are vulnerable to ground predators. North African and Arabian populations may be sedentary or partially migratory, moving relatively short distances to find recent plant growth; populations from Turkmenistan east to China are migratory, and winter in large numbers in Iran and, less abundantly, other parts of the Middle East (Snow and Perrins 1998).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The principal threat to the North Africa, Middle Eastern and western Asian populations is from hunting by Middle Easten falconers, largely but not exclusively on the species's wintering grounds (Judas et al. 2009, Michler 2009). Large numbers of Houbara Bustard are trapped, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, and shipped to Arabia for use in training falcons to hunt (Combreau 2007). Habitat loss and degradation compound this problem (Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Combreau et al. 2001, Combreau et al. 2002). The race fuertaventurae is threatened by collisions with powerlines, with up to 17% killed in this way (Lowen 2007, C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007); habitat degradation caused by tourist facilities; off-road vehicles; military exercises; overgrazing; sand extraction and road development, and possibly also nest predation by introduced mammals and illegal hunting (Martín. et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). Recent evidence suggests that the impact of military exercises and hunting have reduced considerably in recent years, but mortality from powerlines may be significant (C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. For the race fuertaventurae: improved protection from poaching, reduction of grazing (agricultural decline) and habitat management within protected areas (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). SEO/BirdLife purchased a 209 ha reserve to protect the species on Fuerteventura in 2005. For the race undulata: an action plan for the species in North Africa was published in 2007 (Azafzaf et al. 2007). A successful captive breeding and release programme is on-going in Morocco and Algeria (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). For the race macqueenii: studies of the status, ecology and migration of the species in various parts of its range, notably Kazakhstan (Combreau et al. 2001, 2002, Tourenq et al. 2004, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). Captive breeding schemes have been established which are intended in part as quarry substitutes for wild birds, and also for certain restocking initiatives in Arabia (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004); a population has been reintroduced into Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area in central Saudi Arabia, where it is now established and numbers 250-300 individuals, and other reintroductions are planned elsewhere in the country (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Produce a range-wide action and recovery plan, based on agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species. Monitor and reduce hunting pressure throughout range. Establish robust, workable systems for the sustainability of hunting throughout range. Create hunting preserves and other types of managed protected areas. Reduce grazing and other farming pressures (Goriup 1997, Combreau et al. 2001, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). For the race macqueenii: assess the population in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). For the race fuertaventurae: designate new and expand existing special protected areas under European law. Increase wardening of key areas. Ensure safe powerline positions; conduct rigorous census every five years. Continue conservation-related biological research. Undertake local awareness campaigns (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Chlamydotis undulata. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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