|Copyright: Enrico Barbieri (Angel64)
|Date Taken: 2006-05-21|
|Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ5|
|Exposure: f/4.4, 1/80 seconds|
|More Photo Info: [view]|
|Photo Version: Original Version|
|Date Submitted: 2008-09-23 2:52|
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|oASI DI SANT'ALESSIO|
The Great Bustard, Otis tarda, is in the bustard family, the only member of the genus Otis. It breeds in southern and central Europe and across temperate Asia. European populations are mainly resident, but Asian birds move further south in winter.
This species is declining due to habitat loss throughout its range. It used to breed more widely and was extinct in the British Isles between 1832 and an artificial reintroduction to Salisbury Plain in 2004. It forms part of the design of the Wiltshire Coat of Arms. It was also found in the Bărăgan region of Romania, but went extinct in 1967. Sizeable populations exist in Hungary, Portugal, Russia and Spain.
The male of this huge bird is possibly the heaviest extant bird capable of flight, alongside the similarly-sized Kori Bustard. An adult male is normally 1.1 meters long with a 2.4 meter wingspan and an average weight of 13.5 kg .The heaviest known bird was about 21 kg , although larger specimens have been reported but not verified. An adult male is brown above and white below, with a long grey neck and head. The breast and lower neck sides are chestnut. In the breeding season, the male has long white neck bristles. In flight, the long wings show large areas of white.
The female is 30% smaller and half the weight, averaging 6.5 kg The breast and neck are buff. Both sexes are usually silent. Immature birds resemble the female.
Before mating, the males moult into their breeding plumage around January. Like other bustards, the male Great Bustard has a flamboyant display showing much white, mainly from the undertail, and withdrawing the head. The Great Bustard breeds in March, and a single male may mate with up to 5 females. All breeding Great Bustards also moult again from June to September.
2-3 olive or tan coloured, glossy eggs are laid in a small ground scrape. The female incubates the eggs alone for around 4 weeks. The chicks almost immediately leave the nest after they hatch, although they do not move very far from their mother until they are at least 1 year old. Males usually start to mate from about 5 years old. Great Bustards typically live for around 10 years, but some have been known to live up to 15 years or more.
This bird's habitat is open grassland, although it can be found on undisturbed cultivation. It has a stately slow walk, and tends to run when disturbed rather than fly. It is gregarious, especially in winter. This species is omnivorous, taking seeds, insects and other small creatures, including frogs and beetles.
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