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Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has been downlisted to Least Concern as it is no longer believed to have experienced a moderately rapid population reduction in the past three generations (47 years).  Population loss in southern Australia occurred prior to this period, and the population in north is now relatively stable. While local scarcity can occur, possibly caused by hunting or fire, the population almost certainly exceeds 10,000 mature individuals and has an extremely large range. The species therefore does approach any of the thresholds for classification as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Distribution and population
Ardeotis australis occurs across continental Australia and occasionally in southern Papua New Guinea and Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Indonesia. The total population is thought number less than 100,000 birds (S. Garnett in litt. 2003), and almost certainly more than 10,000 mature individuals (Garnett et al. 2011), with the majority occurring in northern Australia. It is rarely recorded on the plains of south-western Papua New Guinea. It has all but disappeared from south-eastern Australia, and is less abundant elsewhere, particularly south of the tropics. Local population size varies strongly with rainfall (Ziembicki and Woinarski 2007) making assessment of trends difficult, however population loss in southern Australia is believed to have been largely historical, and the population in the north is thought to be relatively stable. Satellite-tracking has provided substantial information on dispersal in this species, suggesting that populations in higher-rainfall northern Australia undergo relatively local dispersal, whereas those in lower-rainfall areas may undergo far more substantial regional and inter-regional movements (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). In southern and central Queensland, this species appears to move eastwards in autumn, retracting westwards later in the year (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The population is estimated at under 100,000 individuals (S. Garnett in litt. 2003).

Trend justification
Population loss in southern Australia occurred prior to the past three generation (47 year) period, and the population in the north of the country is now relatively stable. Trends in Indonesian and Papua New Guinea are unknown but birds here account for only a fraction of the global population. The overall population trend is therefore suspected to be stable.

It inhabits grassland, including tussock grassland, Triodia hummock grassland, grassy woodland, low shrublands, and structurally similar artificial habitats, such as croplands and golf-courses. It will also use denser vegetation, when this has been temporarily opened up by recent burning. It lays one, or occasionally two, eggs on the ground, where possible along a boundary between open grasslands and more protective shrubland or woodlands (Marchant and Higgins 1993). In northern Australia it may disperse widely to follow recently-burnt grounds (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Its widespread historical decline was probably caused by a combination of intensive agriculture, invasion of pastoral land by woody weeds, hunting, changes to fire regimes and predation by the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes (Harrington et al. 1984, Marchant and Higgins 1993, J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). It readily deserts nests in response to disturbance by humans, sheep or cattle (Marchant and Higgins 1993). Pesticides, either directly or indirectly ingested, are also held responsible for local extinctions (Ziembicki and Woinarski 2007). The area where it has declined corresponds with the distribution of foxes in Australia, a distribution that may be slowly expanding northwards. Traditional and illegal hunting by people is also considerable and may be contributing to the perceived decline in northern and central Australia (Garnett and Crowley 2000). Across northern Australia it may be less common in areas invaded by woody weeds. Local increases in abundance have occurred in parts of northern Australia in response to recent clearing (Garnett and Crowley 2000) and subsequent horticultural development, but this effect may dissipate as agriculture intensifies (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
Studies have taken place which examine the ecology and movements of this species in northern Australia (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). This research provided estimates of its population density at several sites, and established reliable and robust methodologies for estimating abundance (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). Non-traditional hunting is banned in all Australian states and territories. Conservation Actions Proposed
Consolidate existing vehicle-based bustard counts and relate them to land use. Assess data available from annual kangaroo and feral animal surveys to give information on numbers in remote areas. Monitor population trends. Initiate studies of factors affecting breeding success. Quantify traditional hunting pressure and work towards regulation of take as necessary. Work with land managers to alter land-use practices so that areas of favourable habitat are created and maintained.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J.K. and Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 2: raptors to lapwings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Rolls, E. C. 1969.

Ziembicki, M.; Woinarski, J. C. Z. 2007. Monitoring continental movement patterns of the Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis through community-based surveys and remote sensing. Pacific Conservation Biology 13: 128-142.

Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Bishop, K., Garnett, S., Mathieson, M., Woinarski, J., Ziembicki, M.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ardeotis australis. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Otididae (Bustards)
Species name author (Gray, 1829)
Population size 6700-67000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 6,720,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species