The Great Bustard, Asian Houbara Bustard, and Little Bustard are iconic species of the Eurasian steppes. The long-distance migrations and rapid growth of these birds in Eurasia are adaptations to harsh continental weather. Their predilection for walking and simple nests on the ground are fitting for the region's treeless grassland and desert expanses.

Though they may live close to human settlements and in agricultural fields, where they consume insect pests, many residents are unaware of their presence. This is due to the cryptic coloration and wary nature of these birds, which is a matter of survival for species which have been hunted for millennia.

These heavy-bodied birds also perform spectacular breeding displays, and exhibit extreme sexual dimorphisms. These stem from the ‘lek’ breeding system of these species, in which males compete for female attention at traditional gathering sites each spring.

Eurasian bustards face a variety of threats, including poaching, poisoning, collisions with overhead cabling, and incompatible agricultural practices. The fact that they roam over large territories annually is challenging for their conservation, but makes them excellent ambassadors for landscape-level conservation and sustainable agriculture.

Our reasearch group, the Eurasian Bustard Alliance brings together researchers from across northern Eurasia and the USA to work towards the conservation of bustard species. We aim to expand scientific knowledge of poorly understood populations of these birds with an emphasis on gathering information with conservation implications and engaging local people in the research process. We also promote awareness of these species and advance conservation policy.

New, multilingual website!

We are in the process of launching a new, multi-lingual website! Preview it at eurasianbustardalliance.org. Please excuse (or let us know about!) any errors you come across as we get the site up to speed.

Олон хэл дээр нийтлэгдсэн шинэ веб хуудас! Монгол хэл дээрх бичвэр агуулсан шинэ веб хуудсаа ажиллуулж эхэллээ.  Та дараах холбоосоор веб хуудсанд зочилж болно: eurasianbustardalliance.org. Веб хуудсаа хөгжүүлж эхэлж байгаа тул алдаатай зүйл байвал хүлцэл өчье.

Новый многоязычный вебсайт! Мы запустили новый вебсайт, который теперь также доступен на русском, монгольском и китайском языках! Наш сайт находится по адресу eurasianbustardalliance.org. Просим простить нас за возможные ошибки, так как сайт находится на стадии разработки.

新的多语种网站! 我们正推出新的多语种网站!请点击eurasianbustardalliance.org预览。由于时间仓促,可能有些错误。如果有,请原谅(或告诉我们!)

 

Masters student in Uzbekistan to research overwintering Great Bustards

Beginning in January 2020, Eurasian Bustard Alliance will support master's student Jurabek Tulaev of the National University of Uzbekistan in his research on Great Bustards in northeastern Uzbekistan. This area is used as overwintering habitat by Great Bustards breeding in northern Central Asia. This research is part of a larger project of the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds. Financial assistance is provided by National Geographic. December 2019

 

Proposals for bustard conservation advance to Convention on Migratory Species

Measures concerning the Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Great Indian Bustard, and Bengal Florican will be discussed at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in February 2020. The Government of Mongolia, Eurasian Bustard Alliance and Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia have proosed an extension of the Concerted Action on Great Bustards in Asia. In addition, proposals to increase the level of protection for Little Bustard, Great Indian Bustard, and Bengal Florican under CMS, and to implement concerted actions for the two latter Critically Endangered species, will be considered by signatory countries. Eurasian Bustard Alliance will work with partners to draw attention to these proposals in a side event at the Conference. October 2019

 

New Action Plan for Great Bustards in Asia

Eurasian Bustard Alliance is leading a revision of the Action Plan for Great Bustards in Asia. We have collected data and conservation recommendations from over 30 researchers and conservation workers across Asia. We are still in search of information from some sites in eastern China. If you are knowledgeable about a place important to Great Bustards, please contact us! This activity is part of the Concerted Action for Great Bustards in Asia under the Convention on Migratory Species. September 2019

 

Great Bustard Documentary Reaches Audiences in China

The documentary on Great Bustards createdby EBA for Mongolian audiences has been translated into Chinese by the non-governmental conservation organization China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation. The documentary is available on their website, as well as WeChat/Weixin, Weibo, Iqiyi and Sohu, where it has received at least 10,000 views. June 2019

 

Great Bustard - Kazakhstan's Bird of the Year

Members of the Association for Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) and the Union for Bird Conservation in Kazakhstan have selected the Great Bustard as Kazakhstan's 2019 Bird of the Year! We estimate that just 1000-1500 of these impressive birds remain in broader Central Asia. Causes of decline include hunting and incompatible farming methods. We are working with ACBK to develop an outreach poster about conservation of the Great Bustard in Kazakhstan, as well as their annual "Bird of the Year" desk calendar. January 2019

 

Winter Surveys for Great Bustard Across Central Asia

Great Bustards typically gather in larger groups on wintering grounds, offering a good opportunity to carry out a census of the regional population. From December 2018 to February 2019, Eurasian Bustard Alliance is working with the Association for Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan to coordinate winter surveys for the Central Asian population of Great Bustards in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Financial support for the surveys is provided by National Geographic, and optical equipment by Celestron, Inc. December 2018

 

Publication: Averting the extinction of bustards in Asia

Thirty authors from across Asia have assembled a ground-breaking article, bringing together information about the critical status of all six bustard species in Asia, stating that "the long-term prospects of all six species are extremely bleak unless their conservation is prioritised and significantly strengthened." The article describes the steps needed to save these species, and calls on governments and NGOs for urgent action. August 2018

 

Nine speakers focus on bustard conservation at SCB-Asia

A symposium organized at the Society for Conservation Biology Asia Section conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan has brought attention to the need for conservation action for three bustard species in northern Eurasia: Great Bustard, Little Bustard, and Asian Houbara Bustard. Presentations were prepared by Nigel Collar, chair of the IUCN Bustard Specialist Group, Muyang Wang, John Burnside, Dashnyam Batsuuri, Maxim Koshkin, Elena Kreuzberg, Manuel Morales, Mimi Kessler, and Gang Liu. The panel described poaching, collisions with powerlines, and incompatible agricultural practices as major threats to these birds. August 2018

 

New Research: Great Bustard Subspecies Genetically Distinct

Our research group has published findings resulting from a decade of work collecting genetic samples (dropped feathers!) from endangered populations of Great Bustards across Asia. We find high levels of genetic differentiation in the mitochondrion, and a long history of isolation, between the two subspecies of Great Bustard. These findings heighten urgency for conservation of the eastern subspecies of Great Bustard, of which only approximately 2000 individuals remain. Here is a link to the article, published in the Journal of Heredity. June 2018

 

Nat geo Panel shines Spotlight on Asian Great Bustard Conservation

Mimi Kessler was invited to speak about the "Secret Lives of Great Bustards," as part of a panel at the National Geographic Explorers Festival in Washington DC. National Geographic is funder of our research on Great Bustards. You can watch Mimi's talk, and learn more about the inspiring and groundbreaking work of other National Geographic explorers, here. June 2018

 

New study on Great Bustard physiological response to winter weather

We have collaborated on a study published in the scientific journal General and Comparative Endocrinology, examining the hormonal response of the eastern subspecies of Great Bustard to severe winter weather. We find that prolonged exposure to snowy conditions is a stressor, potentially causing depressed immune function. The paper makes recommendations for conservation managers to reduce the impact severe weather - which may worsen with climate change - has on these endangered birds. May 2018

 

BirdLife Summit for the Flyways Highlights Bustard Conservation

A key focus of BirdLife's Summit for the Flyways, held in Abu Dhabi, was the urgent need for bustard conservation. 15 of the world's 26 species of bustards are listed as at risk by IUCN - including the three species found in Eurasia. Speakers from Eurasian Bustard Alliance, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, International Fund for Houbara Conservation, and University of East Anglia shared research findings and discussed strategies to confront the formidable challenges facing Eurasian species. April 2018

 

Asian Governments to Coordinate Conservation of Great Bustard in Asia

International cooperation will be key to conservation of Great Bustards in Asia, where the species is migratory. The Eurasian Bustard Alliance worked with the Mongolian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia to advance a Proposal for Coordinated Action on the Great Bustard among Asian range states via the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), an international agreement with 125 signatory countries. A Concerted Action, as defined by CMS, is a three-year period of increased communication and cooperation between range states, with the goal of improving the status of the species. At the recent Conference of Parties to the Convention in Manila, Mongolia, Iran, and IUCN made statements in favor of the proposal, which received unanimous support! Coordinated Action will begin in 2018. October 2017

 

Leading Chinese Conservation Organization organizes symposium on Great Bustard at CMS Meeting

Leading Chinese conservation organization “China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation” (CBCGDF) organized a panel on the Great Bustard at the meeting of parties to Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), before scheduled discussion of the proposed Concerted Action for Great Bustards in Asia. Though China is not a party to CMS, it is an important range state for the Great Bustard in Asia and CBCGDF plans to play a leading role in the Concerted Action. Speaker Fred Dubee of CBCGDF outlined the organization’s commitment to the Great Bustard, including establishment of Community Conservation Areas, rehabilitation programs for injured birds, and organization of citizen anti-poaching patrols. Other speakers included Dr. Borja Heredia of the CMS Secretariat, and Dr. B Lkhagvasuren, CMS Scientific Councillor for Mongolia, who provided context on the proposal’s history. Speaker Dr. Mimi Kessler, of Eurasian Bustard Alliance, described declines in Great Bustard populations and urged delegates to support the Concerted Action. October 2017

 

Proposal to Coordinate Conservation for Great Bustards in Asia Advances to CMS Meeting

A proposal to coordinate conservation action for Great Bustards among Asian governments was approved by the Scientific Council of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), a key hurdle. The proposal, developed by Eurasian Bustard Alliance, Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, and participants of the conference "Advancing Conservation of Great Bustards in Asia," will advance to the CMS Conference of Parties in October, where it will be voted on by signatory states to the Convention. It must receive unanimous support to come into effect. July 2017

 

Share Your photographs and Observations!

Have you observed Great Bustards while working or vacationing in Asia? Your sightings and photographs can help to improve our understanding of populations of Great Bustards in these areas. and let us know about your sighting!

 

Mongolia submits Proposal for Concerted Action to CMS

The Government of Mongolia, together with the Eurasian Bustard Alliance and the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, has officially submitted a Proposal for a Concerted Action for the Great Bustard in Asia to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). This measure, if adopted at the October Conference of Parties to CMS, will result in coordinated conservation action across range states which are signatory to the Convention or choose to participate. June 2017

 

Conference "Advancing Conservation of Great Bustards in Asia" Concludes

Experts from nine countries gathered in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to share information on the status and threats to the Great Bustard in Asia and make recommendations for conservation of the species. This information will be incorporated into a Proposal for Concerted Action on the Great Bustard in Asia, and the revision of the Action Plan for the bird's conservation in Asia. Major threats in Asia include illegal hunting, poisoning, failed reproduction due to incompatible agricultural methods, and loss of key wintering habitat. This conference was supported by the Mongolian Government, organized by the Eurasian Bustard Alliance and Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, and funded by Trust for Mutual Understanding. May 2017

 

Surveys in Kazakhstan Reveal Isolated Great Bustard Leks

Eurasian Bustard Alliance carried out collaborative research in West, South, and East Kazakhstan to search for breeding populations of Great Bustards. This work has identified isolated and critically small breeding populations, which are threatened by illegal hunting. The Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia supported this work. April 2017

 

Little Bustards Lekking in South Kazakhstan

A team of Eurasian Bustard Alliance collaborators including staff of the conservation non-profit Dikaya Priroda have spotted Little Bustards lekking in far southern regions of South Kazakhstan and Zhambyl Provinces. Breeding of Little Bustards has not previously been documented in this region. This work was funded by the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. March 2017

 

Great Bustard Sites Identified in Western Mongolia

This fall, Eurasian Bustard Alliance surveyed Mongolian territory of the Uvs Lake Basin for Great and MacQueen's bustards, while biologists at Tuva Republic's Ubsunur Protected Area surveyed the Russian territory. Our team located only twenty Great Bustards gathering for migration on the Mongolian side of the border. According to local people, Great Bustards were once common breeders in this region, and there is even a saying comparing the breeding dance of the Great Bustard to traditional dances of western Mongolians. Today, however, it appears that less than ten Great Bustards breed in this region. Approximately half of the people we interviewed who were familiar with Great Bustards had either hunted the species themselves, or observed hunting by other people. If these highly threatened and isolated populations of Great Bustarddisappear, it is unlikely that breeding sites will be recolonized. October 2016

 

Celestron Sponsors Summer Surveys

Celestron, Inc. has pledged optical equipment to support surveys of Great Bustard populations in Mongolia threatened by development. Celestron's spotting scopes and binoculars have served our team well over the past ten years in a difficult task: observing notoriously wary Great Bustards. We appreciate Celestron's long-term support of our research! June 2016

 

TMU Donates Funding for Conservation Conference

Trust for Mutual Understanding has donated funding to bring together researchers, ministry representatives, and conservation organizations from across Central Asia and the United States to coordinate the conservation of the Great Bustard in Asia under the authority of the Convention on Migratory Species. Trust for Mutual Understanding supports exchanges involving institutions in Eurasia for environmental conservation. June 2016

 

Cover Story on Conservation of Great Bustards

The May issue of Steppe Bulletin, a Russian-language periodical on conservation issues affecting Eurasian Grasslands, features our summary of conservation action for the Great Bustard in Asia as cover story. Fantastic line drawings by P. Dugalis accompany the article. May 2016

 

Ministries Pledge to Support Conference

After success in increasing international protection for the Great Bustard under the Convention on Migratory Species, the Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Green Development, and Tourism plans to continue to play a leading role in conservation of the species by hosting a conference to bring together scientists, conservation organizations and government representatives from across the Asian range of the Great Bustard. German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, long a supporter of conservation in Central Asia, has also pledged generously to the planned conference. November 2015

 

Conference: Cranes of the Palearctic

While the most recent genetic studies separate bustards from cranes, the two groups of birds have much in common in terms of their ecology and conservation. We were invited to the Fourth International Scientific Conference on Cranes of the Palearctic, at Daursky Biosphere Reserve in Zabaikal'ya, Russia, where we met ornithologists from across northern Eurasia to learn about remnant Great Bustard populations in this vast region. September 2015

 

GIS-Remote Sensing Course

M. Kessler and B. Nyambayar co-taught a course in GIS-Remote Sensing for conservation professionals in Mongolia, with J. Burnham of the International Crane Foundation. At WSCC's field base in eastern Mongolia, we carried out lessons in habitat classification, ArcGIS analysis, and data assessment. Fortuitously, bustards were in residence near the site of the training, which allowed us to give course participants their first sighting of the species! August 2015

 

Surveys in Eastern Mongolia

This summer we ventured further into eastern Mongolia to search for remnant populations of Great Bustard. We are now fundraising to carry out telemetry studies on these populations, which likely exhibit different migratory pathways, wintering grounds, and habitat use patterns than those we have studied in north-central Mongolia. August 2015

 

New Publications on Great Bustards in Asia

We proudly present a paper (.pdf) summarizing the historical and present status of Great Bustards in Central Asia, and the threats they face today. Also: M. Kessler's doctoral dissertation (.pdf) on the eastern subspecies of Great Bustard. June 2015

 

Tagged Bustards Die on Migratory Pathway

We are sad to report that tagged bustards Sachokchin and Mendee died on the migratory pathway. Mendee, whom we tagged in 2011, died in Inner Mongolia in China. Sachokchin, whom we tagged in 2010, died in Omnogovi Aimag of Southern Mongolia. We investigate the site of last transmission of all of our tagged bustards in order to study causes of adult mortality in Asian Great Bustards. All deaths of tagged bustards we have recorded have occurred on migratory stopovers or the wintering grounds. May 2015

 


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Notes from Previous Field Seasons: