The Great Bustard is classified as globally Vulnerable by IUCN due to observed and projected population declines, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where Great Bustards have disappeared from large portions of their former range.

Our team works to expand knowledge about poorly understood populations of this species in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, where the species is included on Red Lists (endangered species lists). Local ornithologists estimate that Central Asian Great Bustards number 1600 in Mongolia and 300 in Kazakhstan - low numbers considering the size of these two countries, their low human population density, and the extent of potentially suitable habitat.

There is urgency for research on these Asian populations of Great Bustards, which differ substantially in aspects of their natural history from better-known European populations. Great Bustards are at risk during the rapid changes taking place in the countries of Central Asia, which are transitioning from communism to a free-market economy.

Our team is making important progress on the path to understanding the natural history and risks to these populations of Great Bustards. Learn more about our research activities, including population surveys, satellite tracking, and population genetic analyses.

We work closely with local non-governmental organizations and biologists, with whom we collaborate to develop conservation recommendations and take conservation actions. Our preliminary recommendations have already been incorporated into project and policy documents, and important territories for these birds have been listed with the government for protection. A sensitive and wary animal, the Great Bustard serves as an indicator species for healthy steppe ecosystems and a flagship species for steppe conservation projects, and our project provides baseline information about its populations in the region.

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


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


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


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


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


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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