The Great Indian Bustard




-Rahul Rohitashwa

Birds are our feathered friends. Ranging from the mysteries of migration to the marvels of nest building, the mesmerizing world of birds is full of colour, beauty, romance and music. And therefore this is the reason that birds are considered as a symbol of love and peace.

The Birdlife in South-East Asia is very much prolific and abundant. Over more than 1300 species of birds which consists of almost 14 per cent of all the avian species found in the world are found in the Indian sub-continent. Out of which 150 species of birds are endemic to this area, a total composing over 10% of the region's avifauna.

In this context, The Great Indian Bustard which is the state bird of Rajasthan is among one of the most beautiful, charming and spectacular bird of the Indian sub-continent. This bird is a heavy ground-dwelling bird which is almost the size of a young ostrich. Perhaps this is the reason that sometimes it is also referred to as a miniature ostrich. It is the most attractive, interesting and significant species of the bustards which fall under the Otididae family.
 The Great Indian Bustard ( ghorad bird ) is a large ground bird of about the size of a vulture standing about one meter to the top of its head and weighing up almost 15 kg. This bird inhabits mostly open spaces like grasslands, shrub country and deserts. The upper plumage or colour of The Great Indian Bustard is deep off-white, finally beautified with black underparts with a broad black crown and a large whitish black coat across the lower breast. The white neck, black crown and a large whitish patch near the tip of the broad wings are conspicuous during flight.

This bird is also known as Sohan Chidiya or Hukna in Hindi and Ghorar or Ghorod in Gujrati. The Great Indian Bustards are a sexually dimorphic bird that is in them the male and females are easily recognized. And the sizes of the sexes differ with the females being usually smaller than the males. The bustards spent most of their time in lonely in the open deserts and sparse grasslands interspersed with light scrub jungle and cultivation. They subsist chiefly on invertebrates and vegetable matter.

The bird is excessively shy and introvert in nature. Its food consists of principal locusts, grasshoppers, beetles, grain and tender shoots of various crop plants. The usual alarm note of the bird is a bark something like a hook. The cock is polygamous in nature as it mates with several females at one time. The Indian Bustard is usually found singly or in twos more rarely in flocks numbering over four and up to a dozen or more. 

They wander mainly in open dry country running at a great speed to hide under bush cover. The males are magnificent birds often standing four feet in height. The males display a peculiar method of courtship or attracting females with a variety of tricks. The birds are often associated with deers like blackbuck and chinkara in order to profit from their alertness.

The Indian Bustard is a monotypic species endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It forms a superspecies with Areodetic australis which occurs in Australia. This species is known to make local nomadic or random movements in response to various factors. Usually quiet and calm in nature the male periodically makes a deep moaning call that can be heard from nearly 500m.

There was the time when The Great Indian Bustards were widespread and regularly found across most of the dry western plains of the Indian sub-continent. But due to the illegal killing and rampant poaching activities, it is now restricted to small breeding patches in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh and also in Karnataka. However, some of its members are still found in patches of Sind and in Punjab provinces in the neighbouring country Pakistan. But Rajasthan with 50% of the entire global preparation is the stronghold of this species. And therefore it is considered as the state bird of Rajasthan.

The recent decline in its population has pinched the hearts of many bird-lovers across the country. This bird is an important species of the desert ecosystem and its extinction will definitely cause great harm to the ecosystem of arid regions. Considering this wreckage many NGOs and bird watchers have urged a lot of conservative measures for its risk-free livelihood. It is hoped due to the cumulative effect of nature lovers, the rapid actions were taken by the government and the forest officials the population of this species will be restored and recovered in the coming future.
Rahul Rohitashwa: Freelance science writer, Environment and Wild Life Naturalist, Keen Bird Watcher & Involved in various Nature Conservation Campaign and as well as in Educational Activities.
Winner of Prestigious “Earth Eco-Warrior Award- 2008” by the Honorable Vice President of India in the field of Nature and Eco-Conservation activities in Bihar Twice Winner of “Prithvi Mitr (Friends of the Earth)” Award & “Yuva Rastriya Pratibha Samman” by Earth Matters Foundation and Govt. of Bihar respectively.
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