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Discover the Enigmatic Buff-Crested Bustard: Behaviors Habitat and Conservation

Birdwatching can be a fascinating and engaging activity, but it is not always easy to identify the different avian species. Whether you are a bird enthusiast or a novice, it is vital to understand the features, behaviors, and vocalizations of each species to appreciate their unique characteristics.

In this article, we will explore the Buff-crested Bustard, also known as Eupodotis gindiana, and discuss its identification, plumage, molts, and similar species.


The Buff-crested Bustard is a distinctive bird that lives in the dry grasslands, savannas, shrublands, and deserts of Africa. These large birds have a brownish-grey plumage with broad, buff-colored feathers on their crests and necks.

The males have a black chin and throat, while the females have a buff-colored chin and throat. The males also have a striking orange patch on their breasts, which they display during their breeding season.

Buff-crested Bustards have long, thin legs, and their wings and tails are comparatively short. Field


When identifying Buff-crested Bustards, it is crucial to look for their crest feathers, which are long and bushy, with buff-colored tips.

They also have large, pale eyes with dark pupils, and their bills are short and pointed. Additionally, their legs are yellowish, with long, thin toes that are perfect for walking over rocky terrain.

Similar Species

Buff-crested Bustards are similar in appearance to other bustard species such as the White-bellied Bustard, the Black-bellied Bustard, and the Red-crested Bustard. However, the Buff-crested Bustard can be identified by its distinctive buff-colored crest and neck feathers, which other bustard species do not have.


The plumage of the Buff-crested Bustard changes depending on their age and sex. The males have brighter buff-colored crests and extensive orange breast patches during their breeding season, while females have a slightly greyer crest and a smaller buff-colored patch on their chests.

The juvenile plumage is similar to that of adult females, but with more intricate and mottled patterns.


Buff-crested Bustards undergo two molts, one in their first year of life and a smaller one in their second year. The feather molt is gradual, and young birds can lose feathers over several months.

Adult birds lose their feathers over a more accelerated timeframe. During their molts, Buff-crested Bustards become more vulnerable to predators because they become weak and cannot fly well.


In summary, Buff-crested Bustards are a unique and fascinating species with notable physical characteristics such as large crests with buff-colored feathers, long thin legs and toes, and orange breast patches on males. The species can be identified through their plumage and vocalizations, and birdwatchers must understand also the molting patterns of Buff-crested Bustards.

With this knowledge and observation in the field, it is possible to appreciate the beauty of this bird species and contribute to its long-term conservation efforts.

Systematics History

The Buff-crested Bustard, also known as Eupodotis gindiana, belongs to the bustard family Otididae. The bustards are a group of medium-to-large terrestrial birds that are widely distributed across Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The classification of the Bustard family has been revised many times in the past, and the group’s phylogeny is still debated among ornithologists.

Geographic Variation

The Buff-crested Bustard is a highly variable species with extensive geographic variation. The species occupies a vast range that includes the arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, from southern Mauritania to Ethiopia and South Africa.

The birds found in the western and central regions have a more extensive black and white plumage with a less distinct buff-colored crest, while those found in the eastern and southern regions have a more prominent buff-colored crest and a less distinct black and white plumage.


Several subspecies of the Buff-crested Bustard have been described based on the geographic distribution and differences in plumage. These subspecies differ in the extent of the black and white plumage and the size and shape of the buff-colored crest.

The following are some of the identified subspecies:

– E.g. adenensis: Found in Somalia, northeastern Kenya, and southeastern Ethiopia. This subspecies has a larger buff crest and a more extensive black plumage on the breast and upper-wing than other subspecies.

– E.g. boehmi: Found in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. This subspecies has a larger black plumage on the breast and upper-wing than other subspecies.

– E.g. hindei: Found in the western regions of Tanzania, and the southern regions of Kenya. This subspecies has a smaller buff-colored crest and a less defined black plumage on the breast than other subspecies.

Related Species

The Bustard family consists of many other species, some of which are closely related to the Buff-crested Bustard. The species most closely related to the Buff-crested Bustard is the White-bellied Bustard, or Eupodotis senegalensis.

The White-bellied Bustard is slightly smaller and has more extensive white and gray plumage on its belly, unlike the Buff-crested Bustard’s orange patch.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Buff-crested Bustard has changed extensively over time. Historical records have shown that the species was once widespread across the Sahel region of Africa, from Mauritania to Chad.

However, habitat degradation, hunting, and agriculture have led to a significant decline in the species’ populations. The bird is now absent from some areas where it was once common.

In South Africa, for example, the Buff-crested Bustard was once found in the grasslands and savannas of the Free State, Limpopo and the Northern Cape. Now, populations have declined sharply, and it is only present in localized areas within these provinces.

Conservation Efforts

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the Buff-crested Bustard as a species of “least concern.” However, their populations have declined in the past few decades, and they are facing numerous threats across their range, including habitat degradation, human persecution, and drought. In response to these threats, conservation organizations have implemented measures to mitigate the population decline.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa has initiated several conservation programs aimed at protecting the species. The trust has worked with local communities to promote the sustainable use of the Bustard’s habitat, identify key roosting and breeding sites, and establish conservation areas.

In addition, the trust has also developed educational programs and engaged with landowners to promote the conservation of Bustard populations on private land. In conclusion, the Buff-crested Bustard is a unique and fascinating bird species with extensive geographic variation and a complex systematics history.

The species is facing many threats, but conservation measures can and are being implemented to mitigate them and protect the bird. Through a better understanding of the species’ ecology and systematics, conservationists can establish effective measures to protect the species and their habitats, thus ensuring the long-term survival of this magnificent bird.


The Buff-crested Bustard is mainly found in the arid and semi-arid savannas, scrublands, and grasslands of Africa. They prefer open habitats with sparse vegetation and dry soils with rocky outcrops, where they can find adequate foraging grounds.

The bird species is usually less common in areas with extensive tree coverage and dense bushes.

Movements and Migration

Buff-crested Bustards are generally sedentary birds that occupy a specific range throughout the year. However, they may undertake short migrations in search of food and water during periods of drought.

These movements are often centered on dry riverbeds or shallow water sources, where birds from the surrounding areas gather to feed and drink. These periods of nomadic behavior can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the intensity of the drought.

During these times, the birds usually disperse, and small groups can be found throughout the region. Once the rains return, the birds return to their known breeding and nesting grounds.

Breeding Patterns

Buff-crested Bustards form breeding pairs during the breeding season, which typically runs from February to August in Southern Africa and March to September in East Africa. During breeding periods, males engage in elaborate courtship displays, which involve puffing up their plumage, spreading their wings and tails, and fanning out their buff-colored crests.

After mating, the female Buff-crested Bustard lays a single egg that is then incubated for twenty-eight to thirty days. The young chicks are precocial, which means they hatch with a dense covering of feathers and are capable of moving around and finding their food.

Both parents take turns caring for the young birds until they fledge, which takes approximately six to eight weeks after hatching.

Conservation Measures

Despite the species being listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, the Buff-crested Bustard’s numbers have been declining across their range.

Habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and infrastructure development have all contributed to this trend.

In response to these threats, numerous conservation measures have been taken to protect the Bustard populations. Educational programs aimed at raising awareness of the birds and their habitat needs have been initiated to promote the sustainable use of natural resources.

These programs help local communities understand how their actions can affect the birds and help identify methods to mitigate negative impacts. In addition, protected areas have been established throughout the birds’ range to provide safe habitats and roosting sites.

However, the effectiveness of these programs depends on continuing monitoring and long-term funding and commitment from local communities, conservation organizations, and governments.


The Buff-crested Bustard is a remarkable species that is uniquely adapted to life in the arid and semi-arid savannas and grasslands of Africa. The bird’s movements, breeding patterns, and habitat preferences reflect the harsh realities of its environment.

To ensure the survival of these species, it is essential to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, establish and protect critical habitats, and raise awareness among local communities and governments about the need to protect Bustard populations. By adopting these measures, conservationists can protect this magnificent bird species and preserve Africa’s biodiversity.

Diet and



Buff-crested Bustards are ground-feeding birds that forage primarily for insects and other invertebrates. During the wet seasons, they feed on a varied diet of grasshoppers, beetles, termites, and spiders.

During the dry seasons, when food sources are scarce, they will feed on seeds, tubers, and bulbs.


These birds have a unique foraging behavior where they walk slow and methodically in search of food. They sometimes will hunt from a fixed position, waiting for insects to fly close enough to be captured.

They stretch out their wings and legs, making themselves a larger target to attract insects.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

To cope with the harsh and unpredictable environments of their habitat, Buff-crested Bustards have evolved unique metabolic and thermoregulatory mechanisms. They reduced their daily metabolic rate to conserve water and energy and are efficient at thermoregulation.

The species is capable of maintaining a constant body temperature even in extreme temperatures due to evaporative cooling. They will also use secondary eyelids to protect their eyes from dehydration.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Buff-crested Bustards are typically silent birds, and they rarely vocalize outside of the breeding season. During the mating season, male birds will engage in elaborate courtship displays that are accompanied by loud, low-frequency booms that can be heard over long distances.


The male Buff-crested Bustard vocalizations are generated by producing a low-frequency vocalization by inflating air sacs in its neck region. During the breeding season, males perch atop termite mounds or other elevated points to perform vocalizations to female birds.

The song sequence typically includes a low-pitched booming sound followed by a series of grunts and hisses. The booming sound is deep, resonant and audible, over long distances.

Males produce these sounds by converting air flow through modified bronchi in their respiratory tract into vocalizations. The booming sound also helps them establish their territory and attract females.


Buff-crested Bustards are unique birds with some distinct features that allow them to survive the harsh and unpredictable environments of their habitat. Their diet and foraging behaviors are well adapted to finding food during extreme fluctuations in rainfall.

Buff-crested Bustards are known for their loud, low-frequency booms, which are reserved for the breeding season, and this technique helps males to stake their claim in their territories and attract females. Overall the species is remarkably well adapted to survive in the arid regions of Africa and plays a critical ecological role as an insectivore and seed disperser.

Efforts to conserve the species should focus on preserving their habitat and educating local communities about the importance of protecting these unique and delicate avian species.



Buff-crested Bustards are terrestrial birds that are adapted to walking and running. They have long, thin legs and toes that are suitable for walking and running on uneven surfaces.

Their wings are relatively short, and they do not use them for sustained flight. However, they can fly short distances to avoid predators or to get to higher ground.

Self Maintenance

Buff-crested Bustards have a unique method of self-maintenance behavior. They have a gland on their skin located on the edge of their wings that produces an oily substance that they spread on their feathers to keep them in good condition.

Additionally, they will take dust baths to clean themselves by lying down in sandy or dusty areas and flopping around, using their wings to kick up the dust and sand.

Agonistic Behavior

Buff-crested Bustards have been observed engaging in agonistic behavior, especially during the breeding season when males compete for females. This behavior includes displays such as fluffing up of feathers and intimidating gestures such as jumping, head-bobbing, and charging.

These behaviors are usually confined to territory or mating fights, and they rarely result in physical contact.

Sexual Behavior

The Buff-crested Bustards are a polygynous species where the male bird will mate with more than one female. The male bird performs an elaborate courtship display to the female birds; they will fan out their crest and strut around with their wings extended and sway their body back and forth.


The breeding season of the Buff-crested Bustard is dependent on their region, which can vary from Southern Africa, where it ranges from February to August, and in East Africa, where it extends from March to September. The male bird will establish his territory and then court the female bird, where they will mate.

After a gestation period of approximately 28-30 days, the female will lay a single egg. The egg will then be incubated by both parents for approximately six to eight weeks.

The hatchlings are altricial and are fed by their parents around the clock. Both parents care for the young birds until they are capable of fending for themselves.

Demography and Populations

The populations of Buff-crested Bustards are declining in many parts of their range, with habitat loss and degradation being the primary cause. Overgrazing, hunting, and land-use changes have also contributed to population declines.

The birds are currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, but there is increasing concern about the species’ long-term viability. In response, conservation activities have been initiated to protect the species and their habitats.

Conservation Measures

Several conservation efforts have been initiated to protect the Buff-crested Bustards. Protected areas have been established to provide safe habitats for the birds, and awareness campaigns have been conducted to educate local communities about the importance of protecting the species.

Moreover, the Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa has spearheaded intensive and focused research projects aimed at understanding the current status, distribution, and ecology of the species. Local communities are also encouraged to participate in conservation efforts to protect the species and promote sustainable development practices in key habitats.

In conclusion, the Buff-crested Bustard is a unique and fascinating bird species that is perfectly adapted to the harsh and arid conditions of sub-Saharan Africa. The species’ geographic distribution varies widely, and they exhibit unique behavioral, ecological, vocal and mating patterns throughout their range.

Despite being classified as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, the populations of Buff-crested Bustards are declining, mainly due to habitat loss and degradation. However, through a joint effort between conservation organizations, governments, and local communities, effective conservation measures can be established to help protect this critical species, and its habitats.

Such conservation efforts will not only help protect this bird and its habitats, but also contribute to greater biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and help secure the future of our planet’s ecology.

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