The Return of the Great Bustard

July 24, 2014


Watching a report on the local news about the latest developments in the project to reintroduce the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain, it was pointed out that the bird-headed stone I wrote of here bore a striking resemblance to that great bird, the last one of which was shot on the Plain in 1832. Cue an internet search…

Great Bustard (Otis Tarda). Picture from here

Great Bustard (Otis Tarda). Picture from here.

Looking further, I found this report for October 22nd 2005 from the website of the Portland Bird Observatory:

A long and varied list of highlights today of which the most extraordinary involved a Great Bustard that was first seen flying south over Southwell during the afternoon. A little later it appeared over the Bill from where it flew back north along the West Cliffs and was last seen leaving the island heading north-east over Fortuneswell and Portland Harbour; the bird was wearing yellow wing-tags – seemingly number 06 – and is believed to have wandered from the Salisbury Plain reintroduction project.

Great Bustard, Portland, October 22nd 2005 © Martin Cade

Great Bustard, Portland, October 22nd 2005 © Martin Cade

Indeed, the bird – a female – had flown from Salisbury Plain, presumably one of the Russian birds first introduced in 2004, which had a tendency to disperse in a south-westerly direction, some even ending up in France. Today the Great Bustard Group, dedicated to the bird’s reintroduction, are hatching chicks from Spanish birds, the closest living population of Great Bustards to the original UK population before its extinction, and which are largely sedentary (see here). Less likelihood now of sightings over Portland Bill, I suppose…






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