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Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami

This species is estimated to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to hunting pressure and conversion of grassland habitat for agriculture, and it is therefore classified as Near Threatened; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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.

Male 100cm, female 80cm. Large bustard with grey crown bordered black, white supercilium, whitish-grey face and black line running back from eye. Grey foreneck; hindneck orange-brown. A large black and white patterned panel is visible on the folded wing. Highly distinctive. Voice Mostly silent but produces guttural barking call and male produces deep booming (Collar and Garcia 2013).

Distribution and population
This species occurs in southern Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Angola, Malawi, Zambia (a stronghold), Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana (where it is very scarce [Hancock 2008, S. J. Tyler in litt. 2013, Tyler 2013]), the extreme southern tip of Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Although very widely distributed, it has suffered population declines through much of its range (Urban et al. 1986). The Rift Valley in Kenya was formerly regarded as its stronghold, but there are now probably fewer than 300 in all of Kenya (L. Bennun in litt. 1999), and its range has contracted (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is now regarded as the most endangered of its family in Kenya (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). There have been few recent records in Niger (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012) and the population in the rest of West Africa is also reported to be faring poorly owing to large human populations (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012). Fewer than 10 records of the species have been made in Gambia since 1979 (Barlow et al. 1997). 

It is considered common in Central African Republic, but there have been declines in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and Uganda (Carswell et al. 2005). It is considered very scarce in Botswana (Penry 1994, Hancock 2008) and Ethiopia (Ash and Atkins 2009). In South Africa, studies indicate that the species has decreased in abundance throughout much of its range in the past few decades (Hofmeyr 2012), however in the Western Cape it may have adapted to modified habitats and numbers have increased (Hockey et al. 2005). In other parts of its range the species appears to be doing relatively well, for example Zambia is considered a stronghold for the species (Dowsett et al. 2008) and more than 400 birds were detected in a sample of just 6% of the 77,360 km2 Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (at least half of the reserve supports suitable habitat) in Chad (Wacher et al. 2012).

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common in the Central African Republic and parts of Uganda (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The species's range has contracted in Kenya and there have been declines in Sudan and Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and overall the species is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid global population decline owing to hunting pressure and conversion of grassland habitat for agriculture.

Found up to 3,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It inhabits grasslands, grassy Acacia-studded dunes, fairly dense shrubland, light woodland, farmland, crops, dried marsh and arid scrub plains, also grass-covered ironstone pans and burnt savanna woodland in Sierra Leone and high rainfall sour grassveld, planted pastures and cereal croplands in fynbos in South Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It feeds on insects, small vertebrates and plant material (Collar 1996, T. Dodman in litt. 1999). The breeding season is variable and consequently unclear, perhaps indicating opportunism in reaction to rainfall (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The clutch-size is one or two (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Hunting is the primary cause of declines across the Sahel (Newby 1990) and throughout West Africa (Turner and Goriup 1989, Collar 1996, P. Hall in litt. 1999). In eastern and southern Africa, hunting is also a problem (Parker 1999), but the main threat appears to be conversion of grassland and light woodland to agriculture (Collar 1996, Turner and Goriup 1989). Collisions with power lines may be a significant threat in parts of the range, particularly South Africa (Hofmeyr 2012). Accidental poisoning by agricultural pesticides may also be a threat to birds foraging on farmland (S. J. Tyler in litt. 2013). Climate change poses a potential threat through shifting habitats and severe droughts (Hofmeyr 2012).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to establish an estimate for the entire population. Carry out regular surveys to measure population trends. Monitor the rate of habitat loss, especially in Kenya and South Africa. Test the use of alternatives to reduce hunting, such as ecotourism. Protect habitat and enforce hunting bans in reserves. Research and work to reduce power-line collisions in South Africa for this and other bustard species. Train landowners in bustard-friendly management techniques (Hofmeyr 2012).

Ash, J.; Atkins, J. 2009. Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea: an atlas of distribution. Christopher Helm, London.

Barlow, C.; Wacher, T.; Disley, T. 1997. A field guide to birds of the Gambia and Senegal. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Carswell, M.; Pomeroy, D.; Reynolds, J.; Tushabe, H. 2005. The bird atlas of Uganda. British Ornithologists' Club & British Ornithologists' Union, Oxford, U.K.

Collar, N. and Garcia, E.F.J. 2013. Denham's Bustard (Neotis denhami). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Collar, N. J. 1996. Otididae (Bustards). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 240-273. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Dowsett, R. J.; Aspinall, D. R.; Dowsett-Lemaire, F. 2008. The birds of Zambia. Tauraco Press/Aves a.s.b.l., Liège, Belgium.

Hancock, P. 2008. Denham's Bustard. In: Hancock, P. (ed.), The status of globally and nationally threatened birds in Botswana, 2008., pp. 18. BirdLife Botswana.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Hofmeyr, S.D. 2012. Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami stanleyi: a southern African subspecies at risk? PhD thesis: Impacts of environmental change on large terrestrial bird species in South Africa: insights from citizen science data, University of Cape Town.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Lewis, A.; Pomeroy, D. 1989. A bird atlas of Kenya. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

Newby, J. E. 1990. The slaughter of Sahelian wildlife by Arab royalty. Oryx 24: 6-8.

Parker, V. 1999. The atlas of the birds of Sul do Save, southern Mozambique. Avian Demography Unit and Endangered Wildlife Trust., Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Penry, H. 1994. Bird atlas of Botswana. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.

Turner, D. A.; Goriup, P. D. 1989. The status of Denham's Bustard in Kenya. Bustard Studies 4: 170-173.

Tyler, S. 2013. Denham's Bustards Ardeotis denhami in Botswana. Babbler 58((Aug)): 11-17.

Urban, E.K., Fry, C.H. and Keith, S. 1986. The Birds of Africa, Volume II. Academic Press, London.

Wacher, T., Newby, J., Molcanova, R., Bourtchiakbe, S. and Hassan, M. 2012. Wildlife and land use survey of the Ouadi Rimé- Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, Chad (Part II). September 2011 SCF/Pan Sahara Wildlife Survey. Technical Report No. 7. Sahara Conservation Fund.

Further web sources of information
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
Evans, M., Martin, R, O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Bennun, L., Brouwer, J., Carswell, M., Dodman, T., Dowsett, R., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Hall, P., Murphy, P., Tyler, S., Wacher, T. & Hogg, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Neotis denhami. Downloaded from on 01/12/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/12/2015.

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 - Stanley’s bustard (Neotis denhami) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Otididae (Bustards)
Species name author (Children, 1826)
Population size U mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 7,660,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change