Release 2012 – the Russian-reared birds

Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

L06 in flight, photo © David Kjaer. This year's released birds have excellent feather condition, and as a result fly very well.

Two weeks ago the release process began for the chicks reared in Russia this year. All were moved to our new release site, which gave us promising first results last year. The six young birds have been encouraged to make as gradual a transition to the wild as possible. For the first few days they were allowed out during the day and returned to the safety of their pen at night. Then as they became bolder they stopped using the pen, but remained attached to the predator-fenced field in which they were released.

We are continuing to feed the chicks twice a day, using the dehumanisation suits they have been reared with since hatching. This has a number of benefits, associated with keeping the group together and encouraging all six birds to remain in a safe location for as long as possible. Juvenile bustards which disperse individually are never as successful as those which remain with a larger group.

One of the released females, with two others in the background, photo © David Kjaer

A huge bonus for us was the appearance of four adult birds at the site. Two of these, Black 9 and T5, were released here last year, so it is no surprise that they should return around the time of their own release. We assume that the other two, Purple 5 and Pink 2, followed. This is such good news because the integration of young birds into adult company is a crucial part of their learning process. The one thing we cannot provide for our captive reared birds is a parent.

As the first two weeks have passed, we have observed what appear to be the beginnings of integration. Initially, when the adults flew, the juveniles looked up and watched. Now they fly too. There are still clear differences between the two groups, but the longer all ten birds stay in the same area, the more those should fade.

Black 9, released in 2011, investigating the release pen

One change this year is the first use of coloured leg rings rather than wing tags. Therefore, if you see a great bustard without wing tags it is likely to be one of this year's birds. Look for a light green ring with a black number to confirm this. Reports are always welcome - use the form at

To see monthly updates on the progress of all our birds, take a look at the bird news page of the LIFE+ website:

Categories: Great Bustards, LIFE +, News

Andrew Taylor

Posted by Andrew Taylor

Andrew has worked for the RSPB in Wiltshire for three years, mainly as part of the Wessex Stone-curlew Project. In March 2011,he joined the LIFE+ team.

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