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Little Bustard in sharp decline (1 Viewer)

Gonçalo Elias

Well-known member
Portugal
During the last 30 years there has been a strong decline in the population and distribution area of Little Bustards in Portugal (and Spain).

Here are two maps. The one on the left is from the first Portuguese breeding bird atlas (1978-1984), the other one is from eBird and refers to spring records during the last five years (2016-2020). The species no longer breeds in the northeast and is extremely scarce in the southwest. In the eastern Alentejo Little Bustards are still widespread, but their numbers have decreased as well.


sisao atlas 89.jpg sisao 2016-2020 - red.jpg
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Agricultural intensification I presume. Saw a lot of it in southern Portugal on my visit a few years ago, mostly recently planted irrigated orchards.
 

Gonçalo Elias

Well-known member
Portugal
Yes, changes in agricultural practices and land use are the main driver behind this decline.

The most worrying part is that they have declined everywhere, even in Special Protection Areas. And in Spain it's the same story.

They are actually doing worse than Great Bustards. When I started birding 33 years ago it much much easier to see Little Bustard than Great Bustard, now it's the opposite.
 

JLRamos

Member
Spain
Hi. I live in a rural area that is the habitual habitat of the bustard and the little bustard in Guadalajara and my usual bird-watching area is an area of special protection near my house.

In the last year I was only able to see little bustard on three occasions and the population of bustard this year, compared to last year, seems to have decreased.

It is hard to habitually observe a bird with the feeling that fewer and fewer people will be able to do it.
 

Gonçalo Elias

Well-known member
Portugal
Here are two maps that show the decline in Spain. The top map refers to 2003 and the lower one to 2014-2018.

The species has declined everywhere but the situation is especially worrying in the northern half (Castilla y León), it almost vanished from provinces like Salamanca, Palencia and Burgos.

This image was presented at the launch of the second European Breeding Bird Atlas that took place online earlier this month.

sisao espanha 1.jpg
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
It's always so sad to hear about the loss of any of our wildlife.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Odd thing is, there's been an increase in the number recorded as vagrants in UK in the last few years. Suspect it may be related to released birds wandering from the French reintroduction schemes? (Pssst - don't tell this to BOU Records C'ttee!)
 

Gonçalo Elias

Well-known member
Portugal
The story is probably as bad if not worse in France. Wonder how they are doing in the rest of their rang
Indeed in France there was a decline of 96% between 1978 and 2008, according to this paper:

I am not sure about the situation in other countries, but in Greece the species is marked as extinct in the website of birdlife, map here:
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!

Gonçalo Elias

Well-known member
Portugal
Here is the information provided in the birdsoftheworld website:

Population declines have been noted in most countries. Within the western population block, recent national estimates in its western stronghold in Iberia are of c. 40,000–70,000 birds in Spain (2007) and 30,000 in Portugal (2003–2006) (11, 12)but there are strong indications that numbers have since declined sharply. There were estimates of 1515–2220 in Sardinia (2007) and 1677–1875 displaying males in France in 2008. Unlike many others, the French population has rallied in response to conservation efforts, including the release of captive-bred, individuals, and seems to be increasing; there were 2360–2374 males in 2012 (13). The Little Bustard is extinct as a breeder in much of C & E Europe, with last breeding records in 1907 in Germany, 1909 in Poland, 1921 in Austria, 1918 and 1952 in Hungary, 1948 in Serbia, and mid-20th century in Greece, Bulgaria and probably Azerbaijan. It is recently extinct in mainland Italy. In NW Africa it remains as a very rare and declining breeding species in Morocco: only a few tens of individuals remain (14). It was formerly an abundant breeder in Algeria and Tunisia, but is now probably only an irregular winter visitor there.

Within the eastern population block there are an estimated 18,000–20,000 in Russia, and c. 20,000 in Kazakhstan. Numbers have suffered massive depletion in Russia over the past century. It is also very scarce in Ukraine, with c. 100 recorded in 1999. In Azerbaijan, formerly wintered in huge numbers, with estimates of at least 200,000–300,000 birds in 1930s; current wintering numbers fluctuate, with fewest birds in milder winters, but 150,000 were recorded in 2005/06 (15).
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
. “There were estimates of 1515–2220 in Sardinia (2007)“

I imagine the counts are much lower now - a few years ago, in Sardinia, I recall being told breeding pairs were in the hundreds not thousands - I only found one pair (post-breeding) on that visit but that was because they were still at a known breeding location. I’m not sure what consensus if any, has been done to map winter feeding grounds for Little Bustard which would be a key component of habitat preservation for this species.

Given Iberia holds the bulk of European populations of Little Bustard (which is now extinct in much of its prior range in Europe), such sharp declines in Spain a very worrying indeed.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
I have seen winter maps for the 'la Crau' and Istres - probably posted on here somewhere (and maybe even me) - this was a combined Sandgrouse and Little Bustard count... It seemed to be fairly healthy at the time...

I'll have a look later
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Here are two maps that show the decline in Spain. The top map refers to 2003 and the lower one to 2014-2018.

The species has declined everywhere but the situation is especially worrying in the northern half (Castilla y León), it almost vanished from provinces like Salamanca, Palencia and Burgos.

This image was presented at the launch of the second European Breeding Bird Atlas that took place online earlier this month.

View attachment 1360613
An interesting is depressing comparison. Does this mean the Spanish 2014-2018 is now available or is it just a screenshot?
 

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