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Great Bustard - Otis tarda - 35 young great bustards arrive in UK.

The Great Bustard Project

The UK is obliged under EU legislation (Habitats Directive 1992) to reintroduce species where it is considered feasible. The GBG was set up in 1998 to explore the possibility of reintroducing the Great Bustard to the UK and commissioned a feasibility study accordingly. The study took several years to compile and investigated all academic and practical research on Great Bustards and reintroductions in general. It ably demonstrated that the UK offers suitable conditions for Great Bustards and that the project would not be detrimental to the donor population or the existing UK ecosystem.

Based on the feasibility study, in 2003, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a 10-year trial-licence to release Great Bustards in the UK.

Great Bustards for the UK reintroduction come from the population in the Russian Federation. This is the second largest population in the world, estimated at 8,000 individuals, and is considered stable by BirdLife International. This population is centred in the Trans-Volga region of southern Russia, principally the Oblast (administrative region) of Saratov.

Much of the natural steppe grassland of Saratov has been converted to huge cereal fields which now seem to provide more attractive conditions for Great Bustards to nest in even when areas of natural and semi-natural steppe are available. The extreme seasons experienced in Saratov results in the cultivation of fields coinciding with the Great Bustard nesting period. Despite their size, female Great Bustards are difficult to spot on a nest and reluctant to fly away from approaching tractors and consequently countless nests are inadvertently destroyed by the teams of tractors working the fields.

Great Bustards 2011

After a long journey by truck and plane from Saratov in Russia, 35 young great bustards arrived at the quarantine site at 11pm on 4th August. All appear to be in good health, and we can now look forward to their release in early September. This year’s birds will carry black wing tags, and once they are released we will be delighted to receive reports on their whereabouts. Some will carry satellite or radio transmitters, making the task of keeping track of them a little easier!

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