Great Bustard releases 2014 update

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

This years releases are looking very positive indeed. The total number of birds released was 33 birds – the highest we have ever managed.

The birds are still being fed once a day – this is not really to address any nutritional need, but rather to keep them together and to try and anchor them at one spot.
They were released at two secret sites in Wiltshire, 16 at one site and 17 at another. No birds were released at the original release site, although older birds are still to be seen there. One bird left his release site and was recorded at the other site after only a few days out, but then returned home.

One bird was observed to fly back in to the release field with severe cuts across the tarsus joint on both legs. The cause of this injury is not known, but a collision with a fence is considered most likely. The bird, a male, was captured and taken for veterinary treatment and then kept in a purpose built aviary the GBG keeps for such emergencies.

He made good progress for two weeks and then disaster struck when a tendon snapped. Sadly a bird like a Bustard cannot live well, even in captivity, with only one leg, and he was put to sleep.

The other birds are performing very well indeed. Most stick together or split up into groups, and one release site is frequented by 4-5 older birds. These birds seem to come in to enjoy the food offered to the youngsters, but there much be benefits for the youngsters to associate with the older birds. The new releases have been spending most of the day time on fields of rape stubble, with volunteer rape from split seed growing through. Some of these fields have been several kilometres from the release sites. Just recently these fields have been sprayed with a herbicide in preparation for the new crop to be sown. This will force a change on the feeding habits of the birds and we observe them with interest.

Two birds left their release site after only a few days, and were seen a few kilometres away with two older females (orange 15 and yellow 22). This foursome then split up, and the two older birds were seen regularly but the youngsters have been more elusive. Occasionally they have returned to the release site, but have never stayed for long.
The GBG is indebted to local farmers, keepers and birders who have kept us informed of sighting and movements.

Below is a photo of two birds, one of whom can be seen to be wearing the green leg ring we are using this year. It appears the second bird may not be wearing a coloured ring which would make it one of the older birds, but the photo is not absolutely clear.

Mystery bird

On the 16th September our Visits Manager Lynne Derry was up at the original release site with a group of visitors and was delighted to report that amongst the birds they saw was one of this years youngsters – the first time one had been seen at the original release site.

It is still early days yet, but the birds have been out for 6 weeks now, and to have such a tremendous survival rate is simply fantastic, and all in the GBG are confident that the knowledge learned over the last 10 years has begun to show very positive results.

Categories: Bustard Watch, News

David Waters

Posted by David Waters

David Waters is the founder and director of the Great Bustard Group.

5 Responses to “Great Bustard releases 2014 update”

  1. Claire says:

    Hi I have seen these birds twice in the last few weeks. Wasn’t sure what they were and was only by chance reading in a magazine that I realised how rare they were.
    Think i may live in a secret site so don’t want to say on here where I live.
    Happy to share privately
    Regards
    Claire

  2. CameronDK says:

    This is great news and I hope to read more about these new birds over the following years.

  3. Grahame Walbridge says:

    Dave
    How many birds survive from previous releases; how many males and how many females. What is the total number of birds released up to 2013?

    All birds up to 2013 involved birds from the Russian Federation which is migratory population. Many birds have been recorded ‘migrating’ south and southwest of the release area, notably from Dorset and Somerset. We have recorded several from Portland which have departed out to sea and presumably attempted to cross the Channel to France. Presumably they would have to find new wintering areas?

    Only this morning (23rd Oct) Dick Morris saw one fly south over Weymouth at 0850.

    Are you hoping you reduce the mortality rate by releasing birds from a sedentary population, namely Spain? Are you hoping this years releases remain within the release area?

    Grahame Walbridge.

  4. Bob says:

    Think I have caught a glimpse of a bustard in the Kimpton area of Herts as I passed in my car but could not stop for a better look. Are there any in this area or am I mistaken/

  5. Richard Cross says:

    Thought we saw a great bustard near Amesbury
    Just south of Stonehenge and the a303…..is this likely?