The Houbara Bustard, Chlamydotis undulata, is a large bird in the bustard family.
The Houbara Bustard is 60 cm long with an 140 cm wingspan. It is brown above and white below, with a black stripe down the sides of its neck. In flight, the long wings show large areas of black and brown on the flight feathers. It is slightly smaller and darker than Macqueen's Bustard. The sexes are similar, but the female is smaller and greyer above.
The Asian former subspecies C. u. macqueenii has now been split as a full species, Macqueen's Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii. These two species are the only members of the Chlamydotis genus. The Canarian Houbara is the subspecies Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae. The dividing line between the two Chlamydotis species is the Sinai peninsula.
The British Ornithologists' Union's Taxonomic Records Committee's decision to accept this split has been questioned on the grounds that the differences in the male courtship displays may be functionally trivial, and would not prevent interbreeding, whereas a difference in a pre-copulation display would indicate that the two are separate species. The committee responded to this scepticism, by explaining that there are differences in both courtship and pre-copulation displays.
Distribution and habitat
The Houbara Bustard is found in the Canary Islands, North Africa, Iran and Pakistan. It breeds in deserts and other very arid sandy areas and is largely resident within its range.
Like other bustards, this species has a flamboyant display raising the white feathers of the head and throat and withdrawing the head. 2-4 eggs are laid on the ground. It is vocally almost silent.
This species is omnivorous, taking seeds, insects and other small creatures.
Status and conservation
The Houbara Bustard is widely prized in Arabia for its meat and as a quarry for falconers. Widespread hunting and loss of habitat have greatly reduced numbers.
A major conservation and breeding project is based near Agadir, Morocco and Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan. The International Foundation for Conservation and Development of Wildlife is a not-for-profit foundation funded by Saudi crown prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The project breeds Houbaras using artificial insemination, and the offspring are released to the wild. In Pakistan, it is regarded as the provincial bird of Balochistan (Pakistan).
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