Kori Bustard: Million dollar feather death sentence?
Although the Kori Bustard is still relatively easily found in the wild, population numbers have gradually declined. Since the emergence of the Kori Bustard’s species, urban development and pollution from the human species has continually endangered the Kori Bustard. However, with the addition to past issues, the harvesting of Kori Bustard feathers for use by fishermen in fly making is one of several human activities causing an accelerated decline in the wild population of this majestic bird. Is the profit gain equally valued to the Kori Bustard’s life?
How Nikela Helps
Although Nikela does not have a project that directly protects the Kori Bustard many awareness campaigns address the plight of Africa’s endangered and threatened wildlife species as a whole. Actually Nikela is for preserving all wild things and their wild places.
Facts about the Kori Bustard
There are only two geographically-separated subspecies recognized: the Ardeotis Kori Kori and the A. k. struthiunculus.
Along with condors, swans and turkeys, the Kori Bustard is one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, as well as being the largest of all Bustards. Imposing in stature, it has a bulky body, a long, thick neck, and long, yellow legs. The face and neck are predominately grey, but a distinctive black crest runs back from the crown. Aside from a black patch at the base of the neck, and black and white speckling around the shoulders, the upperparts are mostly brown, whilst the underparts are white. Although the female has a very similar plumage to the male, it is conspicuously smaller in size.
Range mass: 11 – 19 kg.
Range length: 71 – 120 cm.
Range wingspan: 230 – 275 cm.
Ardeotis Kori Kori has a southern African distribution, occurring in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, southern Angola, South Africa and Mozambique, while A. k. struthiunculus has an east African distribution, from southern Ethiopia through Kenya into northern Tanzania.
The Kori Bustard lives in open plains and grassy savannahs, preferably with some trees and shrubbery. However, in some cases, they may be found in more arid areas. Essentially, the Kori Bustard prefers a habitat that is open enough for them to gauge their surroundings at all times. This bird does not tend to migrate unless food and water is in scarce supply.
As an omnivore, the Kori Bustard feeds on berries, as well as little animals (including snakes and lizards), while juveniles feed mainly on protein-rich insects. Interestingly, the Kori Bustard drinks by sucking the water up, as opposed to using its bill to scoop it.
They are ground dwellers, hence the name Bustard, meaning birds that walk. They fly only when necessary because of their weight. They have a long life span and breed slowly. They tend to remain in the same area as long as the food source is good, then they migrate as most animals do. They are seen alone, in pairs or groups in woodland and grassy plains. Kori Bustard walks slowly with measured strides and flies reluctantly. In courtship, the male inflates its throat to spread the white frontal neck feathers outwards, the head with raised crest is drawn back, the wings are drooped and the tail deflected upwards and forwards to the neck. The birds have a majestic walk and for their size are remarkably strong fliers. They take off with very heavy wing beats, but once air-borne they fly quickly and strongly. They prefer to walk away from danger and only fly if pressed. As a group, they walk slowly and in a loose line as they forage for food.
Often, to woo the female, the male Bustard will ruffle its feathers and inflate its neck, performing a dance to impress her. They can also inflate their bill, and make a loud noise, while she takes notice of his efforts.
During pre-mating, the male will inflate its neck and trail its wings as it dances before the female. Some male Bustards even act further and ruffle all their feathers, appearing as a great white ball. They may also bow toward the female while inflating the bill. Males tend to pitch a booming sound too. By this time the male is noticed by the female. Breeding males display this act either early in the day, or late afternoon. Males take no part in raising the young. Females remain on the nest most of the time, leaving it for only short intervals, to feed. Reproduction usually only occurs once a year lasting about 23-30 days. When the female is laying her eggs, it is common for a mother not to create a thick nest; she may even lay them on ground.
Although it has not been established in the wild, Kori Bustards have been observed to reach between 26 and 28 years in captivity.
Habitat and Distribution
Kori Bustards inhabit wide, open grasslands, and lightly wooded savanna. The subspecies Kori can be found in arid savanna areas where trees are usually scattered. Kori Bustards are very fond of areas with short grass and a nice scenery. These birds are not known to migrate as much as other birds, only when needed during scarcity of food or weather.
Typically, Kori Bustards are found in the East Africa as well as in South Africa. The locations in East Africa are Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The subspecies are distributed in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, southern Angola, South Africa and southern Mozambique.
Threats and Conservation
Owing to hunting, habitat loss, and a low tolerance for human activity, the Kori Bustard has been eliminated from many unprotected areas across its range. Also, due to urban development, pollution, and feather harvesting, the Kori Bird species continues to decline. However, because it has such a large range and its rate of decline is thought to be relatively slow, the Kori Bustard is currently listed as LC (Least Concern).
Fortunately, the Kori Bustard occurs in relatively large numbers within several well-managed protected areas across its range, including Etosha National Park in Namibia and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Zoos around the world are also studying this species in order to learn how best to conserve them in the wild. Furthermore, in the United States, several zoos are involved in a breeding program which aims to maintain self-sustaining populations so as to avoid further imports from the wild.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Devin Q. Morton