Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori)

French: Outarde kori
GenusArdeotis (1)
SizeLength: 1.2 m (2)
Weight11 - 19 kg (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

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 (2) (4) (5). Imposing in stature, it has a bulky body, a long, thick neck, and long, yellow legs (4) (6). 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 (4). Although the female has a very similar plumage to the male, it is conspicuously smaller in size (7) (8). Two geographically separated subspecies are recognised: Ardeotis kori kori and A. k. struthiunculus (5).

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 (4) (5).

The kori bustard is a bird of open grasslands, bushveld and semi-deserts (4) (7) (8).

Being primarily a terrestrial bird, the kori bustard is reluctant to fly unless in serious danger (2) (4) (8). Like other bustards, it forages on foot, taking a wide variety of food items including grasshoppers, dung beetles, small reptiles, rodents, seeds, roots and wild melons (4) (6). Often it will follow herding animals, feeding on insects disturbed by the herd’s movements, and will also be quick to inhabit recently burnt areas, where it feeds on new grass shoots and exposed animals (2) (4).

During courtship, the male kori bustard struts about with its crest raised, its neck inflated, and its tail feathers cocked (4) (7) (9). In addition, on approaching an individual female, the male will sometimes bow low, whilst emitting a low-pitched booming sound. Being a polygamous breeder, the male resumes its courtship display following copulation, having nothing more to do with egg incubation or parental care (9). The female incubates one to two eggs in a shallow scrape in the ground for 23 to 24 days before hatching (4) (9). The chicks remain with their mother well after fledging, and only reach sexual maturity after at least two years (9).

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 (4) (5) (8) (9). Nonetheless, because it has such a large range and its rate of decline is thought to be relatively slow, the kori bustard is not currently listed in a threatened category on the IUCN Red List (1).

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 (4). Zoos around the world are also studying this species in order to learn how best to conserve them in the wild (5) (9). 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 (9).

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)