Little bustard

Little bustard
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Otidiformes
Family: Otididae
Genus: Tetrax
T. Forster, 1817
Species: T. tetrax
Binomial name
Tetrax tetrax
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) is a large bird in the bustard family, the only member of the genus Tetrax. The genus name is from Ancient Greek and refers to a gamebird mentioned by Aristophanes and others.[2]

It breeds in southern Europe and in western and central Asia. Southernmost European birds are mainly resident, but other populations migrate further south in winter. The central European population once breeding in the grassland of Hungary became extinct several decades ago.

This species is declining due to habitat loss throughout its range. It used to breed more widely, for example ranging north to Poland occasionally.[3] It is only a very rare vagrant to Great Britain despite breeding in France.

Although the smallest Palearctic bustard, the little bustard is still pheasant-sized at 42–45 cm (17–18 in) long with a 90–110 cm (35–43 in) wingspan and a weight of 830 g (29 oz).[4] In flight, the long wings are extensively white. The breeding male is brown above and white below, with a grey head and a black neck bordered above and below by white.

Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

The female and non-breeding male lack the dramatic neck pattern, and the female is marked darker below than the male. Immature bustards resemble females. Both sexes are usually silent, although the male has a distinctive "raspberry-blowing" call: prrt.

This species is omnivorous, taking seeds, insects, rodents and reptiles. Like other bustards, the male little bustard has a flamboyant display with foot stamping and leaping in the air. Females lay 3 to 5 eggs on the ground.

This bird's habitat is open grassland and undisturbed cultivation, with plants tall enough for cover. It has a stately slow walk, and tends to run when disturbed rather than fly. It is gregarious, especially in winter.

On 20 December 2013, the Cypriot newspapers 'Fileleftheros' and 'Politis', as well as news website 'SigmaLive', reported the discovery of a dead little bustard in the United Nations Buffer Zone. The bird had been shot by poachers hunting illegally in the zone. The shooting was particularly controversial amongst conservationists and birders since the little bustard is a very rare visitor to Cyprus and had not been officially recorded in Cyprus since December 1979.[5]


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Tetrax tetrax". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 383. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. Tomek, Teresa; Bocheński, Zygmunt (2005). "Weichselian and Holocene bird remains from Komarowa Cave, Central Poland". Acta zoologica cracoviensia. 48A (1–2): 43–65.
  4. British Trust for Ornithology-Little Bustard 2011
  5. "Little Bustard Shot". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2014.

External links

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