Chlamydotis undulata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Otidiformes Otididae

Scientific Name: Chlamydotis undulata (Jacquin, 1784)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English African Houbara, African Houbara Bustard
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.
Taxonomic Notes:

Chlamydotis undulata and C. macqueenii (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as C. undulata following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).  

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): Ayé, R., Collar, N., Combreau, O., González, C,, Hingrat, Y., Islam, Z., Iñigo, A., Launay, F., Lewis, A. & Lorenzo, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Allinson, T, Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Collar, N., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Khwaja, N., Pople, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.
This recently split species is listed as Vulnerable because it is suspected to be in rapid decline owing mainly to hunting pressure and habitat loss and degradation. Releases of captive-bred birds may buffer the overall population against these threats; however, further research is required into the demographic consequences of such releases, and surveys are needed to assess the population trend. If it can be demonstrated that these releases have bolstered the breeding population, without detrimental genetic effects, and slowed or halted declines, then the species may warrant downlisting in future.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs across a wide range in North Africa. The nominate subspecies occurs in northernmost Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt west of the Nile, with old records from Sudan. Subspecies fuertaventurae is confined to the eastern Canary Islands, Spain, where its population in the mid-1990s was estimated at 527 birds, with 241 on Fuerteventura, 268 on Lanzarote and 18 on La Graciosa. 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).

Although this species showed a steady decline of c.25% in the 20 years preceding 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), this trend may since have been reversed by a captive breeding and release programme in eastern Morocco and western Algeria, and the overall population of undulata is said to be increasing (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). However, research is required into the efficacy of such releases at improving the demographic trends of the entire population without compromising its genetic integrity. Furthermore, the species has become extremely rare in Tunisia, and declines are suspected in other range states (R. Ayé in litt. 2013). Until further information is available, the global population is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to continued hunting and pressures on its habitats.

Countries occurrence:
Algeria; Egypt; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Spain (Canary Is.); Sudan; Tunisia; Western Sahara
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:6100000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme 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:In the mid-1990s, this species's population was estimated to number at least 9,800 individuals (Goriup 1997). It had been roughly estimated that North Africa held around 30% of the total population of C. undulata and C. macqueenii when lumped, which has been estimated at c.106,000-110,000 individuals. On the basis of these estimates, the population of C. undulata (as split from C. macqueenii) is placed in the band for 20,000-49,999 individuals, assumed to equate to c.13,000-33,000 mature individuals.

Trend Justification:  The species had been in decline prior to 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), but this rate may have now slowed or been reversed as a result of a captive breeding and release programme (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). The Canary Islands was reported to be fluctuating over the period 2001-2012 (BirdLife International 2015). Until evidence of the demographic impacts of these releases is available, the overall population is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to the on-going threats of hunting pressure and habitat loss and degradation.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:13000-33000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It inhabits sandy and stony semi-desert and is specialised to 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), and appears to prefer remote areas away from human settlement (Chammem et al. 2012). It feeds on invertebrates, small vertebrates and green shoots, and typically lays 2-4 eggs in a scrape on the ground. Eggs and young are susceptible to ground predators. North African populations may be sedentary or partially migratory, moving relatively short distances to find recent plant growth (Snow and Perrins 1998).

Males attract their mates with an extravagant courtship display which they perform at the same site each year. The display begins with a period of strutting and culminates with the male retracting his head within an ornamental shield of erected neck feathers and then running at speed in either a straight or curved line. The display is often accompanied by a series of subsonic booming calls (Gaucher et al. 1996).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):6.6
Movement patterns:Unknown

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The principal threat is from hunting, which has worsened with the increased use of firearms, off-road vehicles and other technology (Azafzaf et al. 2005, Michler 2009). This threat is compounded by pressures on the species's habitats, from agricultural expansion, over-grazing of livestock, road construction, other infrastructure development and tourism developments (Azafzaf et al. 2005). Eggs are susceptible to trampling by livestock and collection by humans. Disturbance can be caused by oil exploration activities, along with disturbance associated with other threats. Locust control programmes can lead to direct and indirect poisoning of birds and a reduction in food supply. Floods and droughts cause additional pressures (Azafzaf et al. 2005).

Subspecies fuertaventurae is considered threatened by collisions with powerlines (Lowen 2007, C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007), as well as 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 still be significant (C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. EU Birds Directive Annex I. Bern Convention Appendix II. National legislation protects the species or controls hunting in most range states; however, hunters are often able to circumvent these laws (Azafzaf et al. 2005). Subspecies fuertaventurae has received 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. The nominate subspecies in North Africa was the subject of an action plan (Azafzaf et al. 2005). A captive breeding and release programme is on-going in Morocco and Algeria (Lesobre et al. 2009, O. Combreau in litt. 2012), although the demographic consequences of this for the entire population have not yet been established. Captive breeding is carried out by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) at the Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation (ECWP), at Missour and Enjil in Morocco. The numbers bred and released each year have increased regularly, with 20,310 individuals bred in 2013 (IFHC 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out comprehensive and coordinated surveys to establish the total population size and quantify the overall trend. 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, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). Study the impacts of releasing captive-reared birds on the demographics and genetic structure of the whole population.

For subspecies fuertaventurae: designate new and expand existing special protected areas under European law. Increase wardening of key areas. Ensure safe powerline positions; conduct a rigorous census every five years. Undertake local awareness campaigns (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Chlamydotis undulata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22728245A90341807. . Downloaded on 14 August 2018.
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