Kori Bustard


©Jessie Cohen. Smithsonian National Zoological Park

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The threatened kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) is the heaviest flying bird in the world. Most bird species have a “preen gland” that waterproofs and conditions their feathers, however, kori bustards lack this gland and instead will dustbathe, sun and preen to maintain healthy feathers.

The greatest threats affecting kori bustards are human-related and include habitat loss caused by increased agricultural development and over-grazing from livestock, and hunting. Since their habitat has become so fragmented, kori bustards are found almost exclusively in protected areas in southern Africa. These birds reproduce slowly by nature, so their populations are even more vulnerable to external threats.

The AZA Gruiformes Taxon Advisory Group and Kori Bustard Species Survival Plan® Program manage 115 birds in 34 AZA-accredited institutions. Only seven facilities in the world have ever successfully bred kori bustards, five of which are AZA-accredited member facilities. Zoo scientists are researching the basic behavioral traits of the kori bustard to get a better understanding of their reproductive and behavioral requirements. AZA-accredited zoos are also engaged in long term research to determine the influences different types of rearing have on the growth and development of kori bustard chicks. These types of studies help zoo managers define the optimal enclosure characteristics conducive to breeding, monitoring social interactions, and natural behaviors.

Kori Bustard Facts

Status Threatened
Size Males can weigh up to 42 pounds and reach a total height of 54 inches. Females are significantly smaller, generally weighing under 15 pounds.
Appearance The birds are mostly grey in color, with a black crest on their head. Individual birds may show variations in the banding patterns of their plumage.
Habitat Kori bustards are found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, southern Angola, South Africa, and southern Mozambique. They are often found in wide, open grasslands, and lightly wooded savanna.
Diet They are omnivorous, although they are more carnivorous than other bustard species. They eat a variety of small mammals, lizards, snakes, seeds, insects, and berries.
Breeding Kori bustards are polygamous, meaning that each male mates with several females. Every year, females lay a clutch of one or two eggs on the ground in shallow holes.