Display of vulnerability
When a great bustard is in mid-display, his concentration is on one thing – females, and attracting them by puffing out his chest, throwing up his whiskers and fanning out his huge tail and wing feathers. A wire fence just doesn’t get noticed. Traditional lekking (display) grounds are on open grassland, which allows females to spot displays from a distance, and also approaching predators to be seen. But where exactly the males will display is unpredictable. In fact, Staffan waited for a week, from dawn to dusk, in an old stone hunting hide beside a lek area in Extremadura, Spain, before a displaying bustard came close enough to photograph. But then he watched in horror as the male, in the middle of displaying, walked straight into a sheep fence. Luckily, after a while it struggled free without damage. But other birds aren’t so lucky, and many also die from flying into fences. The great bustard’s grassland habitat in southern and eastern Europe and across as far as China is increasingly becoming fragmented, crisscrossed with wire fencing, power lines and ditches, and converted to intensive agriculture, especially in eastern Europe. The great bustard is classified as vulnerable, but while it is declining in many countries, it is protected in Spain and throughout the European Union.
Nikon D3 + 600mm f4 lens + 1.4x teleconverter; 1/2000 sec at f9; ISO 640; beanbag; hide.
La Serena, Extremadura, Spain
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