I’ve been slow to produce the bird of the week this week as, not having taken many photos recently, I had trouble choosing a suitable candidate. In the end, I did what I have been meaning to do for ages and extended my bird database to include records of all the birds of the week. Now I can easily see what I’ve missed and I’ve found many surprising omissions, including the Australian Bustard. Surprising because it’s a spectacular bird, one of my favourite, fairly easy to find around Townsville and one that I’d never seen before I moved up here in 2002.
The first photo, taken at the Townsville Town Common, shows a bird in a typical pose, bill held high and looking very dignified. Graham Pizzey uses the appropriate adjectives ‘lordly’ and ‘stately’. When disturbed they walk away at a steady pace, and take flight reluctantly, not surprising given their size and weight: the larger males average 120cm/48in in length and 8kg/18lbs in weight. When airborne, they fly strongly and look unstoppable, like the one in the second photo taken at Toonpan at the southern end of Ross River Dam near Townsville.
The land around the dam provides good, undisturbed bustard habitat and it is possible to see as many as 30 Bustards together, both at Toonpan and near the dam wall itself. The third photo, taken near the dam wall, shows a male displaying to the understandable astonishment of an unsuspecting cow. The display is quite extraordinary, with the bird extending the breast sac to the ground, drooping the wings, holding the tail erect against the back of the neck and puffing out the feathers of the neck. The bird walks slowly around making the sac swing, and, for a final touch, makes a roaring sound.
Bustards, apparently, make very good eating, reflected in the common name ‘Plains-Turkey’. So, worldwide (there are about 25 species) they have suffered seriously from hunting, loss of habitat and land use changes. The Australian Bustard is now rare in or absent from settled areas but still holds on in more remote areas. Most of the 25 or so species are smaller African ones, but there are 5 large species including the Great Bustard of Eurasia, the Arabian, the Kori Bustard of Africa and the endangered Great Indian Bustard. The latter two are closely related to the Australian Bustard and the three have in the past been treated as a single species.
On the website, I’ve finished updating the family thumbnail pages, so all now have the same format, the common background colours to distinguish regional thumbnails (Australian, New World, Old World), and labeled previous and next family buttons in the regional as well as the global pages. On the home page, I’ve added 4 ‘Ian’s Picks’ (Australian, New World, Old World and Other Wildlife) to share interesting photos which will be changed regularly. Currently, they are:
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian Bustard is in the Otididae Family which has 27 members and they are the only family in the Otidiformes Order. The family includes Bustards, 7 Korhaans and 2 Floricans. The Bustards like to “move with a slow, deliberate, sedate walk, holding their head high and gently rocking backward and forward.” (National Geographic) After watching several videos of the different species, that is a very good description.
Nothing wrong with being stately or having a good bearing, but we should never act proud or think we are better than others. These birds are behaving the way the Lord created them to act and part of their behavior is to attract a mate.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16 KJV)
Keith has a video of two Australian Bustards walking.