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Species Guide

Great Indian Bustard

Ardeotis nigriceps

The Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps, is a majestic bird, standing about a meter tall with a striking black cap that contrasts sharply with its pale head and neck. The body is a brownish hue adorned with a white-spotted black patch. This species is one of the heaviest flying birds and bears a resemblance to the ostrich due to its horizontal body and long, bare legs.

Identification Tips

Males are distinguished by their deep sandy buff color and, during the breeding season, a conspicuous black breast band. They also boast a black and crested crown, which is puffed up in display. Females are smaller, with less pronounced white on the head and neck, and often have an incomplete or absent breast band.


The Great Indian Bustard thrives in arid and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, and tall grass interspersed with cultivation. It tends to avoid irrigated areas.


Once widespread across the Indian subcontinent, the Great Indian Bustard is now found primarily in central and western India, with isolated populations in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.


These birds are omnivorous, feeding on insects, seeds, berries, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are known to drink water when available and exhibit a unique drinking posture. The species is known for local movements post-monsoon and males are typically solitary during the breeding season but may form small flocks in winter.

Song & Calls

The male Great Indian Bustard produces a deep, resonant booming call, especially during display, which can be heard nearly half a kilometer away. Alarm calls are sharp and barking in nature.


Breeding occurs between March and September. Males display by inflating their white neck feathers and gular pouch, raising their tails, and producing their signature call. Females lay a single egg in a ground scrape and are solely responsible for incubation and chick rearing.

Similar Species

The Great Indian Bustard can be confused with other bustard species, but its size and distinctive coloration set it apart.

Diet and Feeding

The diet mainly consists of insects, particularly Orthoptera and beetles, as well as grass seeds and berries. They have also been observed feeding on crops in cultivated areas.

Conservation status

The Great Indian Bustard is classified as Critically Endangered, with a population estimated at fewer than 250 individuals. The primary threats include habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are underway, including Project Great Indian Bustard in Rajasthan, which aims to protect breeding grounds and encourage population growth.

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Great Indian Bustards on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
parth Kansara
04 Sep 2022 - 7:55am

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