With a maximum weight of 46 lbs (21 kg), the Great Bustard is one of the world's heaviest flying birds. Its preferred habitat in Central Asia is farmed fields close to human settlements. Yet due to the Great Bustard's wary nature, people living adjacent to these captivating birds are often unaware of their existence.

The range of this magnificent species once stretched across the steppes of Eurasia from Manchuria to Portugal. Now the Great Bustard is endangered or extinct across much of that area.

Our project, begun in 2006, is the largest research and outreach effort on Central Asian Great Bustards thus far. We are expanding scientific knowledge of poorly understood populations of the Great Bustard in remote Central Asia with an emphasis on gathering information with concrete conservation implications. We engage local people in the research process and promote awareness of the species in local communities, especially through programs focused on schoolchildren.

Countries Commit to Greater Protection for Great Bustards!

Signatory countries of the Convention on Migratory Species unanimously voted to increase the level of protection afforded to Great Bustard populations worldwide! The Conference of Parties approved the proposal developed by our team and advanced by Mongolian CMS Focal Point D. Batbold. Read our statements of support. November 2014

 

Bustards on the move

Our tagged female bustards Sachokchin and Mendee have begun their journey south as the harsh Mongolian winter begins. Snow first fell in September! October 2014

 

Upcoming Vote at CMS Conference of Parties

The proposal developed by our team to increase protection for Great Bustards under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) will be voted on by signatories to the Convention at the November Conference of Parties in Quito. We need unanimous support! September 2014

 

Sachokchin incubating a second clutch

Through satellite telemetry, we have observed that after just a week's rest, Sachokchin laid a second clutch of eggs! She has now incubated them to term. Bustard chicks are precocial - they are able to walk alongside their mother (albeit slowly and with a bit of stumbling, as in this video from Britain!) shortly after hatching. We hope that Sachokchin's chicks will soon be accompanying her to forage on grasshoppers and beetles (agricultural pests!) in the wheat field in which they were hatched. July 2014

 

Presentations at SCB-Asia

Our team will make two symposium presentations at the Society for Conservation Biology - Asia conference this August. The first presentation, "Mongolia or Bustard!" will highlight our findings on the migratory habits of Asian Great Bustards. In the second presentation, "Steppe by Steppe," we will discuss our perspectives on the importance of community engagement and long-term research for the conservation of both Great Bustards and Taimen. Colleagues attending the meeting are invited to stop by our presentations, and get in touch! August 2014

 

Sachokchin and Mendee lose their clutches

Sachokchin and Mendee, two of the female great bustards we're monitoring with satellite transmitter backpacks, are trying their best to raise a family at their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia. Satellite transmissions reveal that both birds incubated nests for about two weeks in early June - only to abandon them. This often happens when the nest is predated (by crows or foxes), or eggs are crushed by livestock or farm machinery. June 2014

 

Developing Careers of Bustard Team Members

All three master's students who have worked with our team are now employed in positions where their experience with bustards is relevant and influential! Dashnyam is working in the Environmental Department of Oyu Tolgoi, while Natsag and Tuvshin are working in National Protected Areas offices. June 2014

 

Proposal to Conserve Great Bustards Is "Key"

The proposal to increase protection for Great Bustards under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)has been listed as one of the "Key" proposals for consideration at the upcoming CMS Conference of Parties. The proposal has also been endorsed by the IUCN Bustard Species Specialist Group. June 2014

 

Proposal to Convention on Migratory Species

A proposal advanced by our team, urging greater protection for global populations of Great Bustard, has been submitted by the Government of Mongolia to the Convention on Migratory Species! It will be voted on by the 120 Parties to the Convention in November. Read the text of the proposal here. June 2014

 

Sachokchin and Mendee return to breeding grounds

Sachokchin, a Great Bustard tagged by our team in 2010, and Mendee, tagged in 2011, have successfully completed round-trip migrations to return to their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia! This is cause for celebration, as our research has found particularly high mortality for Asian Great Bustards during migration, when they face threats as diverse as hunting, collisions with power lines, and poisoning. May 2014

 

After two-Month journey, bustards arrive in China

Nergui, Sachokchin, and Mendee have arrived in their wintering grounds in Central China! December 2013

 

Research paper selected as "Editor's Choice"

Our team's article on the migratory routes of Mongolian Great Bustards was recognized for outstanding merit by the editor of the Journal of Avian Biology. Download it to learn more about the migratory routes of Nergui, Ulaana and Songuul'! August 2013

 

Great Bustards Absent from Altai Republic

A. Kessler traveled with an expedition from The Altai Project to search for Great Bustards in the Altai Republic of Russia. Though Great Bustards were once found here in significant numbers, it appears that currently only very rarely do Great Bustards cross over from the adjacent Uvs Province of Mongolia. Kessler did manage to spot a snow leopard while in the field! July 2013

 

Master's student carries out second field season

Thanks to your support of our RocketHub campaign, our team's second master's student G. Natsag has traveled to the field to undertake research on bustard breeding behavior for his master's thesis. RocketHub funds are also being used to support genetic research and satellite transmission of data from Great Bustards harnessed with GPS units. June 2013

 

Nergui, Sachokchin, and Mendee Safely home!

We've been monitoring the movements of our tagged bustards with baited breath as they've migrated 2000 km (1200 miles) homeward from their wintering grounds in China. As we've posted before, we are finding that mortality on the migratory route - due in large part to hunting - is a problem for these populations of Great Bustard. We are happy to report that this spring our tagged birds have all arrived safely home to northern Mongolia, where we wish them success in nesting and raising chicks this summer! May 2013

 

Participation in Great Bustard Conservation Meeting

A. Kessler presented our group's findings on the conservation status and threats to Central Asian populations of Great Bustard at the recent scientific and diplomatic meeting on Conservation and Management of Middle-European Populations of Great Bustards. The group agreed to propose stronger protection across the range of the Great Bustard at the upcoming Convention on Migratory Species Conference of the Parties. April 2013

 

Research published in Journal of Avian Biology

Our team's satellite telemetry research has revealed that Mongolian Great Bustards make long-distance migrations, twice as far as has been identified in any other population of Great Bustard. We are happy to announce the publication of that finding in the scientific journal, Journal of Avian Biology. March 2013

 

Nergui Begins Spring Migration

Our team's longest-tagged bustard, Nergui, has begun her northward, spring migration from her wintering grounds in Shaanxi Province, China! March 2013

 

Баярлалаа найзуудаа! (Thank you, Friends!)

Our team is grateful for the incredible generosity shown by our supporters during our recent RocketHub fundraising appeal! With your help, we've raised funds to (1) support our Mongolian master's student's tuition; (2) pay for six additional months of satellite data transmission fees from our tagged bustards, and (3) continue conservation genetic research!

 

If you missed the RocketHub campaign, you still have a chance to participate (and adopt a bustard!) by donating via our PayPal link. We will continue to honor rewards levels outlined on the RocketHub page, so that you can receive mementos of the project! Every contribution, big or small, makes an impact for our team! January 2013

 

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!

 


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Notes from Previous Field Seasons: