The mating system is mostly unknown although strong sexual dimorphism would suggest polygyny. Breeding observations from July to October have been reported across the species’ range. Males undertake elaborate displays on selected high points or dune ridges during the breeding season. Display entails throwing out the breast, pulling the head back, raising the tail and lowering the wings to display a contrasting white and dark pattern, while strutting repeatedly back and forth along the skyline. Clutch size is 2-3 eggs laid in a simple scrape on the ground under or near low shrubs or tussocks of grass. Adult birds will engage in active diversionary tactics to draw would be predators away from eggs and chicks. Immature birds may be ‘parked’ whilst adults forage for food. Mixed groups of adult and immature birds, up to a dozen or more in number, have been observed following the breeding season. The species is believed to be generally sedentary but does undertakes seasonal, nomadic movements in response to the presence of food. Nubian bustards are thought to mostly feed on insects, as well as grass seeds, leaves, fruits and Acacia tree gum. Natural predators include the larger eagles, including short-toed and golden.
The Nubian bustard occupies the sparsely vegetated interface between the southern margins of the Sahara desert and the northern part of the Sahel, ranging from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east, including Mali, southern Algeria, Niger and Chad.
Occupies desert scrub and ephemeral grassland fringes, semi-arid Acacia scrub across the Sahelo-Saharan region of North Africa. Will penetrate Saharan mountain ranges where suitable sandy wadi habitat occurs.
Suffers from widespread hunting (mostly related to falconry activities), civil wars, intensification of land use, disturbance by off-road vehicles, overgrazing, disturbance by livestock, firewood collection and commercial wood collection all of which may now be causing substantial declines in parts of its range.
CITES Appendix II. IUCN Red Data List (2010): Near Threatened. Suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to intense hunting in parts of its range, in combination with other factors. However, if further information shows that the decline is rapid, the species would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable.
This article was kindly contributed by Sara Hallager of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo with input from members of the IUCN Bustard Specialist Group.