What a b*stard!

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OK, so that’s a shocking title, sorry but what else could I do? For those who don’t know, this is a Great Bustard (Otis tarda) which, depending on quite which source you cite, is the heaviest flying bird. Most people concentrate on Andean condors or wandering albatrosses when it comes to the size of flying animals, but if anything getting into the air with more weight as opposed to bigger wings is more of an achievement. Between the three we can potentially learn a lot about locomotion in heavy flying animals (which of course has direct relevance to pterosaurs) yet while it’s understandable that little has been done on the others given the difficulty of keeping them in captivity, it’s odd that so little has been done on the bustard. This one was snapped in the Beijing Zoo and thus was very accommodating, though now they have been successfully reintroduced to the UK I hope to see them wild in my homeland one day.

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5 Responses to “What a b*stard!”


  1. 1 Roger 29/07/2009 at 12:01 pm

    A lot of birds can maintain steady flight with loads equal to their body weight (though they may have trouble taking off). I wonder if this bustard can carry much extra baggage?

  2. 2 David Hone 29/07/2009 at 1:34 pm

    Probably not, though nor would it need to mostly I imagine. I know condors once properly fed can’t take off without a *big* run-up or a cliff.

  3. 3 Mike Taylor 29/07/2009 at 10:13 pm

    It could carry it on a line.

  4. 4 Brian 30/07/2009 at 7:05 pm

    I can see why the wandering albatross is hard to keep alive in captivity, but are you sure the Andean condor is much of a problem? I’ve seen the big bird in several zoos/parks. In Parque Paradisio in Belgium, there even was a young Andean condor performing in their flight show! (alongside many other birds of prey including Griffon Vultures, Black Kites, caracaras, American Kestrel, Great Gray Owl, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Barn Owl and quite a few others too, amazing show)
    So, I don’t think condors are that difficult to keep and I know for a fact that they will breed. Anyhow, that’s just a minor thing.
    As for the Great Bustard..I’d too love to see one alive, preferably in the wild.

  5. 5 David Hone 31/07/2009 at 8:30 am

    Sorry Brian I misspoke, or rather mis-wrote up there. I too have seen a few Andean condors in captivity, the point I *meant* to make is that it would be hard to study them in captivity with regards to flight. Even the largest enclosures I have seen cannot really allow them to soar or do much more than flap a bit so captive birds would be of limited study value.


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