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.
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.
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 ornithologistis from across northern Eurasia to learn about remnant Great Bustard populations in this vast region.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Upcoming Vote at CMS Conference of Parties
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!
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.
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.
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!
Proposal to Conserve Great Bustards Is "Key"
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
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
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.
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
, or contact us for a copy, to learn more about the migratory routes of Nergui, Ulaana and Songuul'!
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!
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.
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
. Contact us
if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the publication.
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!
Watch "Mongolian Myth Bustards!"
Check out the 5-minute video
collaborator V. Cox has put together to acquaint English-speaking audiences with our conservation research and outreach program. Watch our project team at work and see footage of bustards we monitor using satellite transmitters!
has arrived at her wintering site in Shaanxi Province of China, after a journey lasting less than a week! Through our satellite tracking program
, we have found that this journey is usually accomplished over a two-month timeframe, with multiple stopovers. Mendee, in the meantime, is on stopover at the Bayanur Oasis in Inner Mongolia, China.
Fall Migration Begins
is the first of the bustards we monitor
to make a southward movement this fall - she's moved about 100 km southeast from her main breeding valley.
Share your observations!
Have you been on vacation or worked in Central Asia and observed Great Bustards? Perhaps you have even seen one of our Great Bustards marked with a numeric wing tag? Your sightings can help to improve our knowledge of populations of Great Bustards in these areas.
with the dates, numbers observed, and location (closest town, or GPS coordinates).
Public outrage over poaching of migratory birds
Last April, we reported our finding that one of our tracked bustards, Songuul', had been poisoned as part of the trade in illegal wild meats in China. We are happy to learn that the issue of poaching of migratory birds in China, which affects many species, is receiving attention
, and has even been the subject of a documentary
Spreading News of Bustards
We've continued to spread news about our research findings through academic presentations at the Human Dimensions of Fish and Wildlife Management
and Society for Conservation Biology
meetings as well as presentations for public groups including Audubon and P.E.O.
Listen to audio from SCB here.
What our Bustards Did This Summer
Each of our tagged
female bustards spent the summer in her own way. Mendee
spent her summer months extensively exploring mountainous areas and clearings adjacent to her main breeding valley. Sachokchin incubated a clutch of eggs, but appears to have lost her chicks shortly after hatching. And after losing a clutch of eggs, Nergui
went to the mountains for a period as well. Low rates of reproduction
due to loss of eggs and chicks to predators (crows, foxes and wolves) and crushing by livestock and agricultural machinery is a major cause for concern across the Great Bustard's range.
The bustards we are monitoring have made it to the Bayanur oasis in Inner Mongolia - half-way from their wintering site in China to their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia
Sharing Research Findings
Over the winter months we have been sharing our research findings with the conservation community, at such venues as
The Wildlife Society
annual meeting, Student
Conference on Conservation Science
MTI's Avian and Marine Tracking Conference
, and Rutgers'
Mongolian Ecological Research Symposium
Bustards in Winter
Master's student U. Tovshin is embarking on an adventure to determine how many Great Bustards tough out the Mongolian winter - where average low temperatures are -30C (-22F), sometimes reaching -50C (-58F). Wishing him safe travels!
Bosoo Bustard Poached near Mining Site
, one of the bustards whome we monitor via satellite telemetry, died on her migration south towards her wintering grounds. An investigation revealed that she had been poached near a mining site in south Gobi desert. Her transmitter was discarded not far from a road.