Otididae – Bustards

These ground-dwelling birds with their elegant walk are reluctant but powerful fliers and include the world’s heaviest flying birds

Ground-dwelling birds that are found in open grasslands, savannas, and semi-arid regions across Africa, Europe, and Asia. This family consists of bustards, floricans, and korhaans, which vary in size and habitat preference but share common traits that make them well-adapted to life on the ground.

Size within the Otididae family ranges significantly, from the relatively small Little bustard, which is about the size of a chicken, to the grandeur of the Great bustard and the Kori bustard, the latter being the heaviest flying bird native to Africa, with males that can reach up to 20 kg (44 pounds). These larger species possess a robust physique, long legs for striding through grasslands, and a girth that belies their ability to take to the skies. However, their flight is often laborious and reserved for necessity rather than convenience.

The coloring of bustards is predominantly cryptic, with patterns of brown, black, and white that camouflage them within their habitats. This coloration is a crucial survival adaptation, allowing them to remain concealed from predators and to approach their prey stealthily.

Bustards are omnivores with a diet that typically includes a variety of seeds, leaves, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. The versatility in their diet reflects their ability to exploit the resources available within their ecosystems, and their foraging behavior often contributes to the dispersal of seeds, thereby assisting in plant regeneration.

Courtship displays of the Otididae family are renowned for their complexity and beauty, often involving a combination of visual and acoustic signals. Males of many bustard species perform elaborate dances, puff out feathers, or inflate air sacs to exhibit their vigor and attract females.

Ground-nesting is a common trait among the Otididae, with nests being little more than scrapes in the earth lined with grass and leaves. This nesting strategy, while keeping a low profile, makes their eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by mammals, birds, and even the impact of agricultural machinery.