This species is classified as Endangered as recent research has suggested that the population has undergone a very rapid population decline due to collisions with power lines, a trend which is set to continue into the future as successful mitigation measures are yet to be implemented. Research is underway to assess the current population size and identify ways to effectively mitigate collisions with power lines.
Distribution and populationNeotis ludwigii
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
has a large range centred on the dry biomes of the Karoo and Namib in southern Africa, being found in the extreme south-west of Angola
, western Namibia
and in much of South Africa
(del Hoyo et al.
1996; Anderson 2000)
. The global population has been previously estimated at 56,000 to 81,000 individuals (Allan 1994)
. However, this estimate is now approximately 20 years old, and in this time the species is suspected to have declined rapidly as a result of collisions with overhead power lines, for which there is currently no effective mitigation (Anderson 2002; Jenkins and Smallie 2009)
. Population justification
The global population has been estimated at 56,000-81,000 individuals. However, given the estimated rates of power line collisions since this estimate, the true population size is likely to be much lower; a full population census is underway to accurately establish current numbers (J. Shaw in litt.
Based on collision rates with power lines from two areas, the best-case scenario indicates a decline of 51% over three generations in South Africa, which holds 50-75% of the global population (Jenkins et al.
2011). Given that power lines collisions also occur in Nambia (A. Scott and M. Scott in litt.
2010), and effective mitigation measures are yet to be implemented, a decline of 50-79% is estimated over the 31 year period from 1994-2025 (three generations). Ecology
This species inhabits open lowland and upland plains with grass and light thornbush, sandy open shrub veld and semi-desert in the arid and semi-arid Namib and Karoo biomes. It appears to undertake seasonal movements, moving to the western winter-rainfall part of its range in winter (Allan 1994, J Shaw unpubl. data). The breeding season spans from August to December, with the species nesting on bare ground with a clutch of 2-3 eggs (del Hoyo et al.
1996; Jenkins and Smallie 2009). Chick-rearing is conducted solely by females (Jenkins and Smallie 2009). The diet includes invertebrates, some small vertebrates and vegetable matter, including the berries of Lycium oxycladum
. There is strong evidence that the species undergoes movement with rains in pursuit of Orthoptera
hatchlings, though vegetation remains important (Allan 1994). Flocks of up to 70 individuals have been recorded (del Hoyo et al.
The primary threat to the species is collisions with overhead power lines (del Hoyo et al.
1996; Anderson 2002; Jenkins and Smallie 2009; Jenkins 2009; Jenkins et al.
2011). Bustards have limited frontal vision so may not see even power lines, even if they are marked (Martin and Shaw 2010). Collision rates on high voltage transmission lines in the De Aar area of the Karoo may exceed one Ludwig's Bustard per kilometre per year (Anderson 2002; Jenkins et al.
(2009), and there is preliminary evidence for this level of mortality on transmission lines across the Karoo, indicating that the problem is widespread (Jenkins et al.
). Given that the extent of power lines in the Karoo is vast and expanding (Jenkins and Smallie 2009; J. Smallie in litt.
2010), with already over 17,000 km of transmission lines in place, it is estimated that such collisions alone are already enough to cause a rapid decline in the population and may increase in the future (Jenkins et al.
2011). Recent surveys on low voltage lines have also revealed substantial levels of mortality (J. Shaw unpubl. data), and in addition to power lines wind farms are set to be established in many parts of the Karoo in the next few years. Other threats to this species include deliberate hunting, capture in snares set for mammals, poisoning and disturbance, with one satellite tracked bird likely hunted (J. Shaw unpubl. data, del Hoyo et al.
1996).Conservation Actions Underway
A research project is underway at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town to: conduct a new census of the Ludwig's Bustard population in South Africa, to compare with the last assessment in the 1980s (Allan 1994); thoroughly assess the magnitude of power line mortality through regular line surveys across the Karoo; look at habitat use, and patterns of local and regional movement of bustards through satellite tracking in relation to environmental conditions and the power grid; and to explore mitigation options through experimentation of line marking devices (J. Shaw in litt.
2012). An extensive line marking experiment was put up near De Aar in 2011 in conjunction with the Eskom - Endangered Wildlife Trust Strategic Partnership to test the two current devices used in mitigation in South Africa. In Namibia, NamPower are also working to implement effective mitigation measures (A. Scott and M. Scott in litt.
2010). Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to raise awareness to stop hunting, and to encourage the public to report mortality from power lines etc. All new infrastructure (power lines, wind turbines) should be sited and mitigated appropriately, and dangerous sections of line should be retrofitted with appropriate mitigation. Further research into mitigation measures for power line collisions, other than those being tested at the De Aar site, should be instigated as the results of such experiments take a long time to gather. Research to learn more about about key life history parameters for this long-lived bird is also crucial to facilitate more accurate assessment of the impacts of unnatural mortality. Extend research currently underway in South Africa to Namibia (J. Shaw in litt.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Allan, D.G. 1994. The abundance and movements of Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii. Ostrich 65: 95-105.
Anderson, M. D. 2000. Ludwig’s Bustard. In: Barnes, K. N. (ed.), The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, , Lesotho and Swaziland, pp. 105-107. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.
Anderson, M. D. 2002. Karoo large terrestrial bird powerline project, Report No 1.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Jenkins, A., Gibbons, B. and Visagie, R. 2009. Establishment and maintenance of a long-term bird:power line interaction monitoring site in the De Aar (Hydra) area of the eastern Karoo, Northern Cape.
Jenkins, A.; Smallie, J. 2009. Terminal velocity: end of the line for Ludwig’s Bustard? Africa - Birds & Birding 14(2): 34-39.
Jenkins, A.R.; Shaw, J.M.; Smallie, J.J.; Gibbons, B.; Visagie, R.; Ryan, P.R. 2011. Estimating the impacts of power line collisions on Ludwig’s Bustards Neotis ludwigii. Bird Conservation International 21: 303-310.
Martin, G. R.; Shaw, J. M. 2010. Bird collisions with power lines: Failing to see the way ahead? . Biological Conservation 143: 2695-2702.
Further web sources of information
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A.
Jenkins, A., Scott, A., Scott, M., Smallie, J., Shaw, J.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Neotis ludwigii. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2013.
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
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Additional resources for this species