The black bustard has an arresting appearance, with a strong mottled pattern of dark brown and white plumage on the back, bordered with white, which contrasts boldly with the rest of the black body. The tail is a little greyer, with two broad black bars. The head is also black, with a white patch behind each orange-brown eye, and a slight crest of feathers at the back of the head is barred gold, brown and white. The bill is pinkish with a grey culmen, and the legs are bold yellow. Female black bustards have browner plumage than males and have more mottling on the upperparts, whitish breast and black belly (2).
Very little is known about the biology and ecology of the black bustard. Its diet is known to include vegetable matter and insects, and the nest is a simple grass-lined scrape, into which one to two eggs are laid (2).
The timing of breeding in this species is not clear; one report states that the breeding season occurs between August to October (2), while another suggests it spans October to March with a peak in November (4).
The black bustard, which has been classified as not threatened by the IUCN (1), is apparently a common species (2). However, it is possible that numbers may have decreased in the south-western Cape Province due to habitat destruction (4).
The black bustard is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). Further research on the biology and ecology of this bird would be highly desirable (2).
A ridge along the upper bill of a bird, from the tip of the bill to the forehead.
The natural shrubland vegetation occurring in the southwestern and southern Cape of South Africa, holding the greatest diversity of plant species in the world. Fynbos is characterised by tall shrubs with large leaves, heath-like shrubs, wiry reed-like plants, and bulbous herbs.
Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. and Brown, C.J. (1997) The Atlas of Southern African Birds. Volume 1: Non-Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.
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