Great Indian Bustard

Great Indian Bustard

News: The Supreme Court recently directed the Centre to come clean on its plans to save the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.

About GIB:
• The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is a large bird native to the Indian subcontinent. It is among the heaviest of the flying birds, with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich-like appearance.

Protection status:
• Protection Status: The Great Indian Bustard is considered India’s most critically endangered bird. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is also listed in Appendix I of CITES and the CMS Convention.

• Habitat: The Great Indian Bustard inhabits dry and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, and tall grass interspersed with cultivation. It avoids irrigated areas. Its largest populations are found in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small populations also occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

What are the reasons for its decline in population?
• In 2020, the Central government had told the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
• Of the 150 birds in 2020, over 120 birds were in Rajasthan, some were in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
• Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: The bird’s historic range has shrunk to just 10% of what it once was. Widespread agricultural expansion, mechanization of farming, infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electricity pylons, wind turbines, and constructions, mining, and industrialization have led to habitat loss and degradation.
• Power Lines: The Great Indian Bustards are large birds with narrow frontal vision. They cannot detect power lines from far and since they are heavy fliers, they fail to maneuver across power lines within close distances. This makes them vulnerable to collision with power lines.
• Hunting and Poaching: Widespread hunting for sport and food precipitated its decline, accelerated by vehicular access to remote areas. High-intensity poaching still continues in Pakistan and egg-collecting was rampant in many states during the early 19th century.

Interesting Features:
• The Great Indian Bustard stands at about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) tall.
• Males have a well-developed gular pouch which is inflated when calling during display and helps produce the deep resonant calls.
• The Great Indian Bustard is omnivorous and feeds opportunistically on various arthropods, worms, small mammals, and small reptiles.
• The breeding season usually takes place between March and September. After the breeding season, the males leave, and the females become the only caretaker of the chicks.
• At times, in order to protect their chicks from predators and a few other dangers, the females start flying zigzags with dangling legs.
• The males become sexually mature at age five or six, whereas the females acquire sexual maturity as early as age two or three. 

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