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 Chlamydotis undulata

This taxon is Not Recognised as a species by BirdLife International.

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.

Taxonomic note
Chlamydotis undulata and C. macqueenii (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as C. undulata following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).  

Distribution and population
Chlamydotis undulata occurs in a wide range across North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia, in three subspecies. Race fuertaventurae is confined to the eastern Canary Islands, Spain. Race undulata occupies North African countries as follows: northernmost Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt west of the Nile with old records from Sudan. Race macqueenii extends from Egypt east of the Nile through Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E., Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia to China, with unconfirmed reports from Azerbaijan and Turkey (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997). The population of race fuertaventurae in the mid-1990s was estimated at 527 birds, with 18 on La Graciosa, 268 on Lanzarote and 241 on Fuerteventura, although an apparently independent assessment put the total population at 147-882 birds (Carrascal and Alonso 2005). More recent estimates place the population at 108-252 birds on Fuerteventura, 272-801 on Lanzarote and 3-10 on La Graciosa (Carrascal et al. 2006), whilst another census estimated the population at around 1,000 birds on the all the islands, with 384-459 on Fuerteventura, 383-806 on Lanzarote and 11-17 on La Graciosa (Lorenzo et al. 2007). The population of nominate undulata in the mid-1990s was estimated to be at least 9,800 individuals, of which over 50% were in Algeria, 30% in Morocco and 10% in Libya (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in North Africa has not been considered achievable (without huge confidence limits). Instead, it has been roughly estimated that the region holds around 30% of the total population. Although this subspecies showed a steady decline of c.25% in the 20 years preceding 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), this trend has since been reversed by a successful captive breeding and release programme in east Morocco and west Algeria, and the overall population of undulata is now thought to be increasing (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). The population of race macqueenii in the mid-1990s was estimated to be in the range 39,000-52,000, of which over 75% were in Kazakhstan and 15% in Uzbekistan (Goriup 1997). In more recent discussions, however, a reliable estimate for the number of individuals in the Middle East and central Asia has also not been considered achievable without huge confidence limits. Instead, the region has been broken into two, west Asia (the resident population distributed from the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan and Uzbekistan) with around 20% of the total population, and east Asia (the migrant population distributed from Kazakhstan to China) with around 50%. With no new information on the rate of decline in west Asia, that of c.25% estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is retained here. The species has declined "sharply" in east Asia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). Whilst this rate has been highly variable (ranging from a 40% increase in east Kazakhstan to a 90% decline in west Kazakhstan), an overall decline rate of c.40-50% as estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) is thought to remain sensible. The species showed a general decline of c.35% from 1984-2004, but trends now are likely to be less severe given the arrested decline in North Africa.  If 50% (east Asia) of the species is declining by 40-50%, 20% (west Asia) is declining by c.25%, and the remaining 30% (North Africa) is now increasing (at a conservative estimate, by 1-10%) the global population is currently declining by c.20-29%.

All subspecies inhabit sandy and stony semi-desert and are specialised to existence in arid conditions where trees are absent and both shrub cover and herb layer are sparse (Collar 1979, Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Martí and del Moral 2003). Scrub forest is used in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). They feed on invertebrates, small vertebrates and green shoots, and typically lay 2-4 eggs in a scrape on the ground. Eggs and young are vulnerable to ground predators. North African and Arabian populations may be sedentary or partially migratory, moving relatively short distances to find recent plant growth; populations from Turkmenistan east to China are migratory, and winter in large numbers in Iran and, less abundantly, other parts of the Middle East (Snow and Perrins 1998).

The principal threat to the North Africa, Middle Eastern and western Asian populations is from hunting by Middle Easten falconers, largely but not exclusively on the species's wintering grounds (Judas et al. 2009, Michler 2009). Large numbers of Houbara Bustard are trapped, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, and shipped to Arabia for use in training falcons to hunt (Combreau 2007). Habitat loss and degradation compound this problem (Goriup 1997, Snow and Perrins 1998, Combreau et al. 2001, Combreau et al. 2002). The race fuertaventurae is threatened by collisions with powerlines, with up to 17% killed in this way (Lowen 2007, C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007); habitat degradation caused by tourist facilities; off-road vehicles; military exercises; overgrazing; sand extraction and road development, and possibly also nest predation by introduced mammals and illegal hunting (Martín. et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). Recent evidence suggests that the impact of military exercises and hunting have reduced considerably in recent years, but mortality from powerlines may be significant (C. González and J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. For the race fuertaventurae: improved protection from poaching, reduction of grazing (agricultural decline) and habitat management within protected areas (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003). SEO/BirdLife purchased a 209 ha reserve to protect the species on Fuerteventura in 2005. For the race undulata: an action plan for the species in North Africa was published in 2007 (Azafzaf et al. 2007). A successful captive breeding and release programme is on-going in Morocco and Algeria (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). For the race macqueenii: studies of the status, ecology and migration of the species in various parts of its range, notably Kazakhstan (Combreau et al. 2001, 2002, Tourenq et al. 2004, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). Captive breeding schemes have been established which are intended in part as quarry substitutes for wild birds, and also for certain restocking initiatives in Arabia (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004); a population has been reintroduced into Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area in central Saudi Arabia, where it is now established and numbers 250-300 individuals, and other reintroductions are planned elsewhere in the country (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Produce a range-wide action and recovery plan, based on agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species. Monitor and reduce hunting pressure throughout range. Establish robust, workable systems for the sustainability of hunting throughout range. Create hunting preserves and other types of managed protected areas. Reduce grazing and other farming pressures (Goriup 1997, Combreau et al. 2001, O. Combreau and M. Lawrence in litt. 2004, F. Launay pers. comm. 2004). For the race macqueenii: assess the population in Saudi Arabia (Zafar-ul Islam in litt. 2012). For the race fuertaventurae: designate new and expand existing special protected areas under European law. Increase wardening of key areas. Ensure safe powerline positions; conduct rigorous census every five years. Continue conservation-related biological research. Undertake local awareness campaigns (Martín et al. 1997, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Martí and del Moral 2003).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Azafzaf, H.; Sande, E.; Evans, S. W.; Smart, M.; Collar, N. J. 2005. Plan d'action international pour l'Outarde houbara Chlamydotis undulata undulata en Afrique du nord,.

Carrascal, L.M. and Alonso, C.L. 2005. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain.

Carrascal, L.M., Seoane, J., Palomino, D. and Alonso, C.L. 2006. Habitat preferences, population size and demographic trends of houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata in Lanzarote and La Graciosa (Canary Islands). Ardeola 53(2): 251-269.

Collar, N. J. 1979. The world status of the Houbara: a preliminary review. In: Coles, C.L.; Collar, N.J. (ed.), Symposium papers: the Great Bustard (Otis tarda), Sofia, Bulgaria, May 26th, 1978 [and] the Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), Athens, Greece, May 24th 1979, pp. 12. The Game Conservancy, Fordingbridge, U.K.

Combreau, O. 2007. Arabic falconry and the illegal Houbara trade in Arabia. Falco: 16-17.

Combreau, O.; Launay, F.; Lawerence, M. 2001. An assessment of annual mortality rates in adult sized migrant houbara bustards (Chlamydotis [undulata] macqueenii. Animal Conservation 4(2): 133-141.

Combreau, O.; Qiao, J.; Lawerence, M.; Gao, X.; Yao, J.; Yang, W.; Launay, F. 2002. Breeding success in a Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis [undulata] macqueenii population on the eastern fringe of the Jungar Basin, People's Republic of China. Ibis 144: E45-E56.

Gaucher, P.; Paillat, P.; Chappuis, C.; Saint Jalme, M.; Lotfikhah, F.; Wink, M. 1996. Taxonomy of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata subspecies considered on the basis of sexual display and genetic divergence. Ibis 138: 273-282.

Goriup, P. 1997. The world status of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata. Bird Conservation International 7: 373-397.

Judas, J.; Lawrence, M.; Combreau, O. 2009. High mortality of Asian Houbara Chlamydotis macqueenii in Iran. Falco: 14-15.

Knox, A. G.; Collinson, M.; Helbig, A. J.; Parkin, D. T.; Sangster, G. 2002. Taxonomic recommendations for British birds. Ibis 144: 707-710.

Lorenzo, J. A.; González, C.; Hernández, M. A.; Delgado, J. D. 2007. La Avutarda Hubara en España: población en 2004-2006 y método de censo. SEO/BirdLife, Madrid.

Lowen, J. 2007. Price of power. World Birdwatch 29(4): 18-21.

Martí,, R; del Moral, J. C. 2003. Atlas de las aves reproductoras de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza-Sociedad Española de Ornithología, Madrid.

Martín, A.; Lorenzo, J. A. 2001. Aves del Archipiélago Canario. Francisco Lemus Editor, La Laguna.

Martín, A.; Lorenzo, J. A.; Hernández, M. A.; Nogales, M.; Medina, F. M.; Delgado, J. D.; Naranjo, J. J.; Quilis, V.; Delgado, G. 1997. Distribution, status and conservation of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae Rothschild & Hartert, 1894, in the Canary Islands, November-December 1994. Ardeola 44: 61-69.

Michler, I. 2009. Lifting the veil: wake-up call to counter covert hunting threat. Africa - Birds & Birding 14(3): 58-62.

Sangster, G. 1996. Trends in systematics: taxonomy of Houbara and Macqueen's Bustards and neglest of intraspecific diversity. Dutch Birding 18: 248-256.

Sangster, G.; Hazevoet, C. J.; Van den Berg, A. B.; Roselaar, C. S.; Sluys, R. 1999. Dutch avifaunal list: species concepts, taxonomic instability, and taxonomic changes in 1977-1998. Ardea 87: 139-165.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1993. A supplement to 'Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world'. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Tourenq, C.; Combreau, O.; Lawrence, M.; Pole, S. B.; Spalton, A.; Gao, X.J., et al. 2005. Alarming houbara bustard population trends in Asia. Biological Conservation 121: 1-8.

Tourenq, C.; Combreau, O.; Pole, S. B.; Lawerence, M.; Ageyev, V.S.; Karpov, A. A.; Launay, F. 2004. Monitoring of Asian houbara bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii populations in Kazakhstan reveals dramatic decline. Oryx 38: 62-67.

Further web sources of information
Action Plan for Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae

Action Plan for Chlamydotis undulata undulata

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Spanish Ornithological Society's LIFE project

Text account compilers
Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Collar, N., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Pople, R., Khwaja, N.

Collar, N., Combreau, O., González, C., Iñigo, A., Launay, F., Lorenzo, J., Islam, Z.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Chlamydotis undulata. Downloaded from on 30/06/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/06/2015.

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 - Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Not Recognised
Family Otididae (Bustards)
Species name author (Jacquin, 1784)