The great bustard has a very wide range, broken into smaller populations.
Strongholds for the species are in Spain and Portugal (about 14,000–14,500 birds), Hungary (1,000–1,200) and Russia (10,000–11,000).
Smaller populations occur in northern Morocco, Turkey, southern Ukraine and Germany, with remnant populations elsewhere in eastern Europe.
It also occurs across central and eastern Asia, through Kazakhstan and Krgyzstan, and wintering from Syria through southern Azerbaijan and nothern Iran to Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan.
The great bustard has recently become extinct in Poland, Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia. It became extinct during the 1800s in France (it was last bred 1863) and also in Sweden and Greece
The bird became extinct in Britain in the late 1830s.
Its last confirmed breeding in England was in 1832, and the last known bird was seen in 1838.
It was formerly widespread in the UK - from southern England to southern Scotland - and was strongly associated with the chalk downs of Wiltshire, Dorset, Sussex and Kent, and the Wolds of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
The Great bustard requires large expanses of open, flat or rolling grassland and is strongly associated with meadows, pastures and stubbles in regions of low intensity agriculture.
In Spain, it sometimes uses open woodland, such as olive groves.
It lives mainly on plant material and invertebrates, especially beetles (Coleoptera), crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera). Sometimes it eats small vertebrates, such as amphibians or nestling birds.