We find ourselves at the height of the dry season. The vegetation has died back, allowing us great views of the open savanna woodland. Conditions like these, create the perfect habitat for the largest bustard found in our area, namely the Kori bustard. We have been fortunate enough to have had great sightings of these majestic birds over the past few months.
The Kori bustard is said to be one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, weighing in at around 11-19kg. The big variation in weight, is due to the male being 20% larger than the female. The size difference helps to distinguish male from female, as they look similar in appearance.
Bustards and korhaans belong to the family Otidae. The grouping is known for its elaborate breeding displays, which range from flight displays, plumage changes and unusual calls. The male Kori bustard lives up to his relatives’ displays by puffing out his frontal neck feathers, and inflating his throat pouch. Additionally, he will have a raised crest, and hold his tail in an upwards position in order to display white under-tail coverts. If this is not enough to impress any potential suitors, he adds to this by giving a deep booming call!
Their nests consist of an unlined shallow scrape on the ground. The females will incubate the eggs and take care of the young. If a predator approaches the nest, she will either try to slip away from the nest unnoticed, or fly away at the last possible moment. The clutch usually consists of two eggs, and will be incubated over a period of around 25 days.
The Kori bustard has a varied diet that consists of anything from lizards, chameleons, insects, snakes, vegetable matter and even carrion. They are also known to feed on acacia gum, therefore known as the “gompou” in Afrikaans, which can be translated as the “gum eating bustard”.
Kori bustards are considered as Vulnerable in Africa, and therefore “bird flappers” have been placed on powerlines that cross open grassland in certain conservation areas, in order to prevent the birds from colliding into them.
It has been estimated that the species is likely to decline by a rate of 10% in South Africa over the next three generations. This is largely due to habitat loss, which is aggravated by bush encroachment caused by overgrazing of livestock and an increase in the demand for agricultural land.
Second photo by: Wess Booysen