Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami): request for information.

This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

BirdLife species factsheet for Denham’s Bustard

Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami occurs from southern Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia, east to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and south to the extreme southern tip of Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is currently classified as Near Threatened under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd, on the basis that it is undergoing a moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over three generations [c.31 years]), owing to hunting pressure and the conversion of its grassland habitat for agriculture.

Although very widely distributed, it has suffered population declines throughout much, if not all, 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). Its range has contracted in this country (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and it appears to be undergoing a genuine population decline, such that it is now considered the most endangered of its family in Kenya (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). There have been very few recent observations of this species in Niger (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012) and the population is also claimed to have fared badly in the rest of West Africa due to the large human population (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012). There are reported to be fewer than 10 records for the whole of Gambia since 1979 (Barlow et al. 1997). There is likely to have been a population decline in Uganda over recent decades, with few records of this species since 1970 (Carswell et al. 2005). There have also been declines in Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996), it is described as very scarce in Botswana (Penry 1994, Hancock 2008) and there are only 3 records in Ethiopia, on the eastern edge of its range in Sudan, with no records of breeding (Ash & Atkins 2009). In South Africa, studies have indicated that this species has decreased in abundance throughout much of its range over the past few decades (Hofmeyr 2012). Assessments showed that the most important threat posed to the Denham’s Bustard in this region is collisions with overhead power lines (Hofmeyr 2012), and in areas where declines were not reported, it remains susceptible to climate change impacts and changing land-use practices (Hofmeyr 2012). However, it may have adapted to modified habitats in the Western Cape and numbers are said to have increased in these areas (Hockey et al 2005). The species does appear to be doing relatively well in other parts of its range. Zambia is considered a stronghold and it is not known to be especially endangered in this country (Dowsett et al. 2008). Surveys in Chad in 2011 found evidence of more than 400 birds in a sample of 6% of the 77,360 km2 Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (Wacher et al. 2012), and given that at least half of the reserve contains suitable habitat, population estimates could be as high as 1,500-2,000 individuals (

Additional information is required on this species’s population size and trends, and on the severity of threats throughout its range. If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the global population has declined by at least 30% over the past three generations (c.31 years), it would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A2 of the IUCN Red List. If the population has declined by at least 50% over this period, it would qualify as Endangered.


Ash, J. and Atkins, J. (2009) Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Barlow, C., Wacher, T. and Disley, T. (1997) A Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal. East Sussex, UK: Pica Press.

Carswell, M., Pomeroy, D., Reynolds, J. and Tushabe, H. (2005) The Bird Atlas of Uganda. Oxford, UK: British Ornithologists’ Club & British Ornithologists’ Union.

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

Dowsett, R. J., Aspinwall, D. R. and Dowsett-Lemaire, F. (2008) The Birds of Zambia. Belgium: Tauraco Press and Aves.

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, VIIth ed. Cape Town, South Africa: The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.

Hofmeyr, S. (2012) Impacts of environmental change on large terrestrial bird species in South Africa: insights from citizen science data. PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.

Lewis, A. and Pomeroy, D. (1989) A Bird Atlas of Kenya. A. A. Balkema: Brookfield.

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

Penry, H. (1994) Bird Atlas of Botswana. Pietermaritzburg:  University of Natal Press.

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.

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5 Responses to Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami): request for information.

  1. Denham’s Bustard is an uncommon bird in northern Botswana with only 58 records within the country or just across the border up to 2013. The first record in Botswana was a specimen (jacksoni) collected from Nxai Pan in the north of the Makgadikgadi Pans in March 1967. Then a bird was seen in the Kwando (upriver part of Chobe River) in February 1970, followed by one in Chobe National Park in December 1973 and another close to the Botswana border at Kazuma Pan but just within Zimbabawe. Other sight records followed with 14 since 2010.

    The majority of the records (where the dates are known) in Botswana and close to the border (49 of 55) fall between late November and April with just three in June, two in August and one in October.

    Favoured areas include Chobe National Park, notably at Savuti, Selinda between Chobe and the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve in the Delta and Nxai Pan from where there have been ten records since the first specimen was obtained at the Pan. Two records come from Nata Sanctuary on the northern shore of Sua Pan in the Makgadikgadi system, one record from Orapa and one record from Tale Pans southwest of Lake Ngami. Seven recent records come from a farm at Pandamatenga, close to the Zimbabawe border and Kazuma Pan.

    Most sightings have been of single birds (49 of 59 records), seven records of ‘pairs’ with only three records of more than two birds, the maximum number being five. It is very likely that birds seen in Botswana are from a breeding population in Zambia or further north and mainly visit Botswana in the non-breeding season. The increase in sightings in recent years probably reflects more keen observers in northern Botswana rather than any change in status; Good and protected habitat occurs widely in northern Botswana. Some poaching (as for Kori Bustard) may occur outside protected areas but would be minimal. Where birds feed on farmland, there may be some risk from poisoning from pesticides used on crops or to control insects and Red=billed Quelea.

  2. Tim Wacher says:

    Would be good to mention the strong seasonality of Denham’s bustard in Chad. The figures for Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Ahcim applied to the month of September only. Three further surveys of the same place in dry season (February 2011, Apr 2012, March 2013, recorded o Denham’s bustard at all. We don’t know where they go.

  3. James Hogg says:

    According to Birds in Rwanda – Vande Weghe and Vande Weghe this bird is a scarce breeding resident. It was apparently quite common until the 1980s when numbers declined sharply and this continued through the 1990s. The bird is currently restricted to Akagera National Park. I have heard of 1 sighting this year at Akagera.

  4. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List is to pend the decision on Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami and keep this discussion open until early 2015, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2014 update.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  5. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    This discussion will remain open for further comments and information until early 2015, and the current Red List category will remain unchanged in 2014.

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