Eastern Great Bustard (Otis tarda dybowskii)

(2041) Otis tarda dybowskii.

 

The Eastern Great Bustard.

Otis dybowskii Taczanowski, Journ, f. Orn., 1874, p. 331 (Dauria). Otis tarda. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 493.

Vernacular names. Deo-dagh (Chitral).

Description. - Male. General colour above sandy-rufous, broadly banded across with black, most strongly so on the back and scapulars ; upper tail-coverts and tail light bay or vinous-chestnut, barred with black; tail-feathers tipped with white, the outer with white bases, the outermost nearly all white with black tips; lesser wing-coverts like the back but the black bars less close; remainder of wing-coverts white powdered with grey on the terminal portions; quills brown with white bases, the primaries whity-brown with white shafts and the outer webs and tips blackish; outer secondaries blackish with white bases, the white increasing in extent until the innermost long ones are all white, the shorter being like the back; head, neck and throat light grey tinged with rufous on the hind-neck, where there are numerous narrow black bars; elongate bristly grey feathers on either side of the chin and lower throat orange-chestnut, forming a band across the fore-neck, which is washed with light grey; sides of the neck with numerous small black bars; sides of upper breast sandy-rufous barred with black remainder of under plumage pure white.

Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill plumbeous with a black tip; legs and feet earthly-brown or greenish-brown; claws black.

Measurements. Wing 595 to 635 mm.: tail 210 to 235 mm.; tarsus 142 to 150 mm.; culmen 41 to 47 mm.

Female much smaller than the male. The chestnut pectoral band of the male is absent, there being only patches of chestnut under the shoulders of the wing. It has no whiskers.

Measurements. Wing 455 to 495 mm.; tail 178 to 210 mm.; tarsus 113 to 126 mm.; culmen 35 to 40 mm.

Young of the typical form are like the female but duller and paler, the white of the wings is much marked with black; the bastard wing is barred with rufous and brown and there is a certain amount of rufous on the greater wing-coverts.

Nestling probably like that of the European Bustard covered with light down mottled with black.

Distribution. Transbaikalia, South-East Altai and Mongolia to Manchuria. In India it has occurred about half a dozen times; the first in 1870 at Mardan ; next, of 25 seen, two young females were shot near Mardan in January 1911; the same year one was shot in Jacobabad in Sind and a fifth was procured by Capt. Lyall in Chitral, whilst, finally, one was killed at Peshawar on the 1st of December, 1917. All six specimens were young birds.

Nidification. Apparently nothing on record. A pair of eggs and a single one sent me by Smirnoff from Eastern Manchuria are as one would expect, just like those of the common European bird. The ground-colour is an olive-green in all three; in the pair the markings are well-defined olive-brown and blackish-brown blotches, sparsely scattered here and there over the whole surface with still more scanty secondary marks of grey. In the third egg the markings are larger and more numerous but less distinct and all olive yellow-green in colour. They measure 80.0 x 52.0 ; 80.0 X 53.3 and 75.3 x 55.9 mm., and were all taken on the 12th of May, 1923.

Habits. The Eastern Great Bustard is a very common bird in North China and Manchuria, where it haunts the huge open plains devoid of all cover except stunted bushes and coarse grass. David and Oustalet say that they collect in herds, or droves, of fifteen to twenty birds and that they are very shy of man. The flight of these grand birds is powerful and fast, though the deliberate wing-beats are very deceiving; they rise easily but generally run or walk a few steps against the wind before springing into the air. Their diet is omnivorous - grain, seeds and shoots of plants, lizards, snakes, frogs and all kinds of insects. The European Bustard in former times was considered a great delicacy but the Chinese consider the flesh of the Eastern bird to be " mediocre " only.

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