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Otis tarda is the name of a species of bird that belongs to the family Otidae, generally it is located in different areas which include Europe, China and North Africa, in the following article we will know more about the characteristics of this bird and its natural environment.

Otis tarda

The Great Bustard or also known as the Otis tarda? is a species of otidiform bird, which belongs to the family Otidae, this bird is considered as the only member of the genus Otis, and for this reason is who gives name to the family of this genus, this species moves to different places, since it has a wide distribution, usually located in various areas such as:

  • Europe
  • The Iberian Peninsula
  • Central Europe
  • Asia
  • China
  • North Africa


Most of these Otis tarda birds found in European populations are sedentary, but those found in Asian areas frequently migrate to southern Asia where they spend the winter as part of their usual style.

Generally there is very little information that indicates what is the life expectancy of the Otis tarda bird in the wild, some opinions have mentioned that the percentage may be 10 to 15 years, it all depends on the quality of life of the species, as it is usually frequent that this is moved to different environments throughout his life.

This is a very active bird species that often moves from one place to another as part of its usual style, usually feeds on various products of nature and has very defined tones in most of its plumage.


The Otis tarda is characterized by having a very particular habitat, this species is usually located in areas where there are natural grasslands in central Asia, although since ancient times they have adapted to live in different places, the advance of civilization and the work of agriculture have made them settle in different spaces on a frequent basis. (see article: Turkey).

It is common for this species to move through different territories, as it is part of its nature, it can go from one place to another in search of various foods since it usually has a very broad diet.

The habitat of this species usually consists of several stages, it adapts easily to the different environments it frequents, it is an active bird, emits certain sounds to communicate with other species that are part of their daily space.


Generally the original distribution of this species was guided by a broad line which covered from Europe to Siberia and some areas of China, with the passage of time many of the populations of Otis tarda have suffered a considerable decline as a result of different factors.

For this reason, during some stages of the 20th century, a large part of its distribution area has been affected. The European populations are considered as sedentary, although in other places they are classified in another way, since the Asian populations move to the South in winter, thus showing that the natural environment where the bird is found has a complete influence.

At present, according to various statistics there is about 60% of the world population of this species, which is located in the Iberian Peninsula, for this reason the populations that are central-European are considered directly as almost extinct, this as a result of the different events that have affected their natural habitat. (see article: Peacock).

Because of this, over time different measures have been created to avoid the complete decline of the species in places at risk, for this reason there are recovery projects in Germany and Great Britain, each of these strategies have the main objective of generating directly the conservation of the species and provide the necessary care for their good development and welfare.

The populations of the Otis tarda, which are found in Asian areas, are generally not very well known, for this reason they present a very unfavorable conservation status, which is reflected in the decrease of its population.

Historical details

Generally until the 80’s the Otis tarda, suffered a series of events that affected in a considerable way its species, among these events is the hunting activity, that was carried out in a habitual way with this bird and that originated a great decrease of its population in Spain.

As a consequence of these constant hunts, many of the Otis tarda breeding nuclei were completely affected, to the point that they disappeared in certain areas, and the population of this bird was significantly reduced.

It can be said that in the last decades, there are other factors that have affected the species as a result of the evolutions and modernism, also the agricultural intensification has influenced a lot, and different events such as the amount of irrigation implantation, and many other processes, originated with the passage of time as well as the urban expansion, which destroyed its part of its habitat.

Illegal hunting has also had a direct influence on the decline of this species, as well as each of these causes mentioned and many more that have affected the specimens, are the threats that have destroyed the population of this bird, for this reason different measures have been taken to try to maintain control in the conservation of the species Otis tarda.

Although each of these events has influenced the decline of the species, the Iberian population is considered the largest in the world, and according to various opinions has more than half of the world population, as a result of the reproductive capacity of this bird.


The Otis tarda is a bird considered as a gregarious species, generally in the periods corresponding to the winter, this bird can often group in large numbers with flocks that reach up to dozens of birds. Although these fulfill their natural function and the groups of males and females of this species do not group together outside of the breeding stages.

The Otis tarda is a species that is characterized by having a quiet style is a majestic bird, which has very distinct colors, if for some reason this bird feels threatened, usually run as a defense measure, according to various opinions is considered that the female of this species in the adult stage, has a great capacity for resistance. (see article: Crex Crex).

Although it is not known exactly how fast it runs, it is only known to be faster than the speed of foxes when running long distances. This fact shows the agility and capacity of the Otis tarda.

Generally this bird also shows great endurance in terms of its flight levels, being this species considered as a bird of great capacity, as it can move successfully and travel long distances during their seasonal periods, this bird is usually very quiet but in the breeding stages emits different types of sounds to communicate with other species close to their usual environment.

The females are characterized by making more complex sounds, since they emit very constant calls and make different noises when they are in the nest and the chicks emit certain sounds like adult birds to communicate on a daily basis.

The populations of the Otis tarda that are generally located in places like Russia and East Asia are considered migratory bird species, these gather in large groups which move to different places as part of their natural development.

There are several areas of distribution of this species, one of them is in the areas of central Asia, where these birds usually make frequent migrations in search of different foods, also this species moves to certain areas depending on the period in which it is located and is located to migrate in the winter and summer seasons depending on the situation.

In certain places such as the Iberian Peninsula, we have considered a small amount of these birds Otis tarda, which depending on the stages migrate to different areas, often this is due to their level of resistance as they move long distances obtaining a good result.


The Otis tarda is a bird that has a very varied diet. This species is considered omnivorous and its diet is mainly based on the different seasonal stages of the year.

It is frequent that in the month of August in places like the northwest of Spain there is a percentage of these species that consume a quantity of green vegetable matter, invertebrates and seeds, each one according to the period in which it is found.

During the winter, Otis tarda birds feed on large quantities of seeds and various products of their environment, since depending on the season they can eat alfalfa frequently as well as various plants of their habitat, as they are:

  • Legumes
  • Plants with fruits
  • Dandelion
  • Grapes
  • Wheat grains
  • Barley

The species that are part of the diet of the Otis tarda are insects, among which are butterflies, cockroaches, among others, this diet varies according to the season and the development process of this bird since in the adult stage it feeds on plants.

The most common insects in the diet of these birds are the following:

  • Beetles
  • The bees
  • Mantids
  • Ants
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Locusts

Each of these insects are frequently consumed by these birds, as they are found in abundance in their natural environment, and are available to be eaten at all times.

They can also consume rodents, frogs, lizards and very often the chicks of other birds close to their environment, which they consume as part of their regular diet.


Otis tarda birds usually have a very complex reproductive period, they settle on their young at the beginning of March. The type of reproduction that these birds have is based on a series of courtships performed by the male where he seeks to obtain the attention of the female through different movements as part of his nature.

This courtship is carried out according to the reproduction period and has a specific moment in Spain from the beginning of March to in some cases it can occur at the beginning of April, depending on the stage.

Each of the males, before the breeding season, usually go through a molting process where they change all their plumage and thus get a breeding plumage, as it is necessary to fulfill this natural cycle, this process takes place around the month of January, and allows this bird to achieve a good development.

Also depending on the seasonal stages, these birds travel certain places in search of establishing their nests in safe areas and to keep their chicks protected, each of these measures are originated as part of their natural instinct.

Males in the young stage become independent quickly, in the case of young females of the species is usually different, since they are still in the same place until the next breeding season arrives.

The young females of this species get their adult plumage around 2 months, after a process of development, they begin to fly, and in an average of 3 months they are able to fly longer distances.

After a while and before the chicks of these birds reach their definitive plumage, they must go through a necessary period as part of their natural development, that is why many times their tones make them look the same as their environment and can go unnoticed, but when this stage is completed, they usually acquire permanent feathers with the color that determines the species.

Within the reproduction process of these birds different characteristics are fulfilled, which are necessary as part of their development, among which stand out:

  • Males are characterized by reaching reproductive maturity during a period of 5 to 6 years
  • Some start earlier (it depends on each bird)
  • When they enter the reproductive stage they show it with their courtship behavior, which is noticeable and permanent during this stage
  • In the case of the females of this species, they generally begin the reproductive stage between 2 and 3 years old
  • ? All Otis otarda moult again around the months of June and September

Life expectancy

The Otis tarda bird species usually have an average life expectancy of 10 to 15 years in the wild, although this depends on many factors, there are different evidences that there are birds that have lasted 28 years of life, it all depends on the resistance of each species.

There are also many factors that have considerably affected the population and lifestyle of these species, among which are the constant predators that have become a direct threat to both adult birds and chicks, this is another cause of the reduction of their life expectancy in the wild.

In each case the existence of each bird, along with its life expectancy varies according to its environment since some of these Otis tarda species are in states of vulnerability depending on the place where they are located.

Preservation Measures

The Otis tarda since ancient times has been considered as a species that has suffered large population declines, for this reason it has been classified as a vulnerable species according to various opinions based on the IUCN, this due to the decline they have suffered.

Most of the populations of these birds have disappeared in many places, all as a consequence of different factors, which have been reflected in the loss of their habitat.

The main causes that have diminished these birds are modernism, construction in the areas they inhabited, different chemical products to care for the crops, each of these events have determined this reduction of their populations, and for this reason has been considered as a species at risk.

Among the main causes of the reduction of Otis tarda populations are the following:

  • The extension of irrigated crops
  • Construction of infrastructures in their habitat
  • Roads
  • Power lines
  • Housing developments
  • Hunting
  • Use of pesticides


According to different investigations it has been proved that the area of distribution of this bird included a high rate of population which was becoming extinct in most of Europe.

Approximately during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as it was also very affected in various places where there were a variety of these birds as it was in the British Isles in the years of 1832 and in Romania in the years of 1967, each of these populations disappeared completely in these areas.

Although many efforts were made for the preservation of this bird through the prohibition of hunting in places like Spain since the 1980s, and other measures were taken as in the Iberian Peninsula, this bird is considered a threatened species due to the reduction of its habitat and the aforementioned factors.

Many preventive measures have been taken for the conservation of this species, since it depends on special care in the areas where it is still found to avoid its complete extinction.

Due to the fact that this species is considered vulnerable, according to several investigations carried out on this species and its populations, a number of 44,100 to 57,000 specimens have been obtained worldwide, which indicate a considerable contribution to the species. (see article: Grus grus).

In places like Iberia there is a percentage of 31,300 to 36,200, this amount seems not to have decreased during the last decade, due to the efforts made to preserve the species, for such reason the whole Iberian population is at an appropriate level, this has allowed a greater amount in certain areas, although certain processes still influence the spaces that they inhabit.

It is considerable the local decrease rates of each one of the populations in the areas where there was a greater distribution, since due to the damages of its natural habitat this species has looked for zones that are considered as not suitable for the development of the same ones.

The habitats that have been used by these birds as a consequence of the loss of their spaces, are catalogued in some cases as not appropriate, because they do not have the necessary resources for their good development, this has also been influenced by other threats that directly affect their habitat among which are the electric fences.


The Otis tarda, is a ve that has very particular characteristics that give it a unique touch, among which stand out:

  • It is of great size
  • Robust appearance
  • It is an Active bird
  • Its plumage is of various shades among which are browns, ochres, whites and blacks
  • It has a great capacity of resistance
  • It makes different sounds to communicate
  • It has a wide variety in its diet


Otis tarda birds usually use different sounds to communicate with other species, and also to define what they perceive in their environment, although the noises they make are not loud, nor do they reach great distances, they are considered as light sounds.

Distribution areas

The species Otis tarda usually has a wide distribution, among the places they inhabit are:

    • The Iberian Peninsula
    • Northern Morocco
    • Northeastern China
    • In the Iberian Peninsula
    • Southern Portugal
    • The Spanish Autonomous Communities
    • Castile – Leon
    • Castilla – La Mancha
    • Madrid
    • Andalusia
    • Aragón
    • Navarra


This species has an easy adaptation to different spaces among which the areas of the plains, the treeless lands and the wide places also this bird shows much sympathy for the spaces of extensive cultivation of cereal.

In places like Spain, its main habitat is formed by the traditional crops of wheat, barley, and different natural products, since this species frequents the wide spaces and with a lot of vegetation.


The Otis tarda is a species of bird considered as a migratory, it travels long distances thanks to its capacity of resistance, it moves to different places with a considerable number of birds.

According to several studies carried out on the migrations of these birds, it could be seen that most of the Iberian males of the nearby peninsular areas migrate in the months of May to June. (see article: White or albino peacock).

It could be noted that these birds make a previous preparation as part of their natural instinct and which is part of this stage, they moved to cooler summer areas and which were usually located up to 250 km away from their breeding areas and where they remained for a short period while they traveled the nearby areas in search of food and a suitable climate.

This study proved that 2 of the populations studied, contained the presence of a certain index of the females of this species, thus generating a higher level of these as migrators, and providing a percentage of 36% to 51% of the same approximately, moved to the wintering areas that were far away in a distance of about 140 km from their breeding areas, thus proving their level of resistance and adaptability.


The environment of this species allows it to acquire different types of food, this bird is considered very active since during migration periods it can travel long distances. As for its eating habits, it is omnivorous, although it can consume different vegetable products, which vary according to the season, it also feeds on insects and rodents.

The Otis tardas are generally characterized by grouping each year in traditional places, which they use to reproduce using different methods acquired as part of their natural instinct, and with which in most cases they obtain good results.

These birds usually develop their nests in safe places and build them in an appropriate way using certain resources of nature, among which are branches and other objects, they usually stay with the chicks until they reach their full stage of development and become completely independent to move to different areas.

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