Otidiformes – Bustards

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

Comprises the diverse and fascinating group of birds such as bustards, floricans, and korhaans, are a spectacle of avian adaptation to open landscapes like grasslands and savannas across various regions of the world. Their elusive nature and the cryptic coloring of their feathers provide excellent camouflage, blending seamlessly with their natural habitat, making them a challenging sight for birdwatchers and predators alike.

Size among these species varies dramatically. The Little bustard, roughly the size of a domestic chicken, contrasts starkly with the imposing Great bustard and Kori bustard, the latter being the heaviest flying bird native to Africa, with males tipping the scales at close to 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

Otidiformes are omnivorous, with a diet that encompasses a wide array of plant matter, seeds, and insects. Some have been observed to consume small vertebrates, providing a glimpse into their flexible feeding strategies. They forage on foot, walking methodically across the terrain, pecking and probing the ground for food.

Perhaps one of the most captivating aspects of these birds is their courtship displays, which are nothing short of theatrical. Males of several species inflate their necks and parade with outstretched wings, showcasing their plumage to attract females, often performing in leks, where several males congregate to display competitively. These elaborate rituals are a marvel of the natural world, drawing enthusiasts from across the globe to witness the spectacle.

When it comes to nesting, Otidiformes are ground-nesters, laying their eggs in simple scrapes in the earth, a strategy that unfortunately leaves them particularly susceptible to predation and disturbance. The survival of their nests is precarious, reliant on the concealment provided by surrounding vegetation.

The conservation status of many Otidiformes is of increasing concern. Human activities such as hunting and land conversion for agriculture have led to declines in several species, with habitat loss due to the expansion of farming and urbanization posing significant threats.