Otis tarda (great bustard)

Its large size, striking plumage and spectacular displays make the great bustard one of the world’s most impressive birds.

However, its future is uncertain as its widespread, fragmented populations decline rapidly under the impact of global agricultural expansion and intensification.  

This bird was once commonplace in the UK, but became extinct in Britain in the 1830s. A unique conservation project is currently underway to reintroduce this great bird to Wiltshire in southern England.

Species detail

  • Great bustard illustration
    Taxonomy

    Male great bustards stand over a metre tall and have distinctive plumage when breeding. Find out more about Otis tarda, the sole member of the genus, Otis.

  • Young great bustard
    Distribution

    Otis tarda has a wide distribution, but has disappeared from parts of Europe including Britain. Discover where you might spot it and what it likes to eat.

  • Great bustard illustration
    Biology

    Female bustards nest on the ground and incubate their eggs for 3–4 weeks. Explore the reproductive cycle of this elegant bird.

  • Male great bustard displaying
    Behaviour

    Male bustards go to great lengths to attract a mate. Take a closer look at the remarkable display rituals of Otis tarda.

  • Typical great bustard habitat
    Conservation

    The habitat of the great bustard is disappearing rapidly, but conservation groups are striving to reintroduce the bird to the UK. Find out what’s being done.

  • References

    Get reference material for Otis tarda.

Images

Male great bustard displaying

Male great bustard displaying.

© Bela Motko
Young great bustard

Young great bustard on Salisbury Plain in 2010.

© Great Bustard Group
Typical great bustard habitat

Typical great bustard habitat.

© Great Bustard Group
Great bustard illustration

Great bustard from John Gould’s Birds of Great Britain, 1873.

© Natural History Museum, London
Great bustard illustration

Great bustard illustrated in Konrad Gesner’s Vogelbuch, 1582.

© Natural History Museum, London

About the author

Hawaii 05
Dr Joanne Cooper

Curator, Bird Group, Department of Life Sciences.

A word from the author

"Great bustard is arguably the most charismatic bird that ever walked Britain’s green and pleasant land.  ‘Our’ great bustards were sadly driven to extinction, and the species is by no means secure elsewhere.  But the great bustard may be coming back - in 2009, the first wild chicks in Britain for over 175 years successfully hatched and fledged in Wiltshire."

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