Pigeons and doves

Pigeons and doves constitute the bird clade Columbidae, that includes some 310 species. They are stout-bodied birds with short necks, and have short, slender bills with fleshy ceres. Doves feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones.
In general, the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, "dove" tends to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically, the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms. The species most commonly referred to as "pigeon" is the Feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities.


Doves and pigeons build relatively flimsy nests from sticks and other debris, which may be placed in trees, on ledges, or on the ground, depending on species. They lay one or two eggs, and both parents care for the young, which leave the nest after seven to 28 days.Unlike most birds, both sexes of doves and pigeons produce "crop milk" to feed to their young, secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Young doves and pigeons are called "squabs".  (Wikipedia)

Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae

Small to medium-sized birds; they generally have small heads and full-breasted bodies, and soft but very dense plumage

5.9–31.5 in (15–120 cm); 1.1–4.4 lb (0.5–2 kg) Number of genera, species 42 genera; 316 species

All terrestrial habitats, from desert to rainforest, and mangrove to high alpine mountains

Conservation status
Extinct: 11 species; Endangered: 14 species; Critically Endangered: 12 species; Vulnerable: 34 species; Near Threatened: 34 species


Cosmopolitan, except the Arctic and Antarctica.

Physical characteristics
Pigeons have compact bodies and rather small heads on short necks. In most species the external sexual dimorphism is poorly developed. The wings are long and broad in many species, and consists of 10 primaries with the first reduced and 10–15 secondaries.

 Flight muscles are about 40% of total body mass; in poor fliers this is 14%. Columbid tails are usually long and broad, but some species have long, pointed tails. Twelve to 14 feathers build the tail. Crowned pigeons have 16–18 tail feathers. Pigeons lack down tracts, but all body feathers exhibit downy barbs at the base. Many pigeons have no oil gland at all, others have a small and naked oil gland. Preen oil is not used during preening. Powder-downs replace the function of preen oil.

The legs of arboreal pigeons are shorter than those of terrestrial pigeons. Tarsi (legs) are covered in front by large scales but laterally and behind with small ones; in Staroenas and Goura, front scales are also small. Feet are the perching type, with three toes in front and a large hind toe. Pigeons have short bills. The basal portion is swollen and covered with soft skin, the cere. The middle portion of the bill is constricted, giving it a plover-like appearance. Eyes are surrounded by bare skin that varies in color and may be red,
blue, yellow, or white. Two large lobes form the crop, which plays an important role in nutrition, when feeding young, and in vocalization. Caeca—cul-de-sac-like structures at the lower end of the gastrointestinal tract—are rudimental. The gall bladder is missing in most species.

Fossil remains of some pigeons have been found from the Miocene in Europe, the Pliocene in North America, and the Ice Age in many parts of the world. Asia, especially southeast Asia, is considered a center of radiation for pigeons; the many archipelagos and most islands are inhabited by pigeons. Here we find more than half the total number of genera. The Americas follow with three monotypic genera, three genera containing less than five species, and five polytypic genera. Africa and Australia are inhabited by 10 genera each; two of these are monotypic genera. The New Zealand pigeon belongs to the monotypic genus Hemiphaga. A strong power of flight lets pigeons colonize distant ocean islands. Most islands of the Pacific Ocean, Polynesia, and Melanesia are inhabited by pigeons, often by several species on one island. The wood pigeon colonized the Azores, 780 mi (1,260 km) from the next inhabited place, and formed asubspecies. Forerunners of the Galápagos dove also had to cross more than 560 mi (900 km) of ocean to reach the Galápagos archipelago.

There is considerable ecological differentiation. Most species are arboreal, with a few exceptions concerning the terrestrial forms of humid tropics and species bound to rock cliffs. True arboreal forms are the specialized pure fruit-eating fruit doves living in tropical rainforests. The savannas of America, Africa, and Australia are occupied by preferentially tree-bound species. Some species breed in colonies in the mangroves of the Caribbean, Australia, and Malaysia. There is considerable ecological differentiation. 

Most species are arboreal, with a few exceptions concerning the terrestrial forms of humid tropics and species bound to rock cliffs. True arboreal forms are the specialized pure fruit-eating fruit doves living in tropical rainforests. The savannas of America, Africa, and Australia are occupied by preferentially
tree-bound species. Some species breed in colonies in the mangroves of the Caribbean, Australia, and Malaysia.Cliff-nesting species occur mostly in Eurasia, but also in the Andes. The snow pigeon (Columba leuconota) is a close relative of the rock pigeon, which inhabits the high mountains of Asia from Afghanistan to western China, and often breeds in colonies nesting in cliff recesses and crevices. During summer the species inhabits great mountain heights, and in winter feeds at lower altitudes. Ernst Schäfer reports, “These large pigeons (0.6 lb; 280 g) never sleep at lower altitudes. In the evening they form great flocks and by the thousands, in groups of 100–200, fly up the valley cliffs to reach their sleeping quarters 15,100–16,400 ft (4,600–5,000 m) high, and some 6,600 ft (2,000 m) above the feeding grounds. As soon as the sun appears in the morning the same spectacle can be observed, only reversed. 

The pigeons always maintain the same flyway, and fly rapidly down into the valleys in great masses to feed to their satisfaction and return to the rough heights for night.

In California deserts the American mourning dove may breed at air temperatures to 111°F (44° C); in Australian deserts the common bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) lives in dry, hot conditions. Australian spinifex pigeons also live in a very hot habitat; they forage in morning shade and rest hidden in crevices during the hottest time of day. This species has a lower basal metabolic rate and a high upper critical temperature. At 113°F (45°C), ambient temperature gular (an area directly under the bill) fluttering starts. Otherwise, heat is dissipated through the skin by evaporative water loss.

Many species show social behavior; we distinguish flocks, colonies, and aggregations. The flock is a small unit often formed for evident functional purposes such as foraging, commuting, roosting, or predator avoidance. The colony is a larger social unit characterized by spatial cohesion in connection with nesting or winter roosting behavior. The aggregation is a large social unit often composed of several flocks. An environmental feature such as a rich food source may cause an aggregation to form. Feral pigeons, for example, undertake foraging, flight, loafing, and roosting in flocks or aggregations of flocks. An individual pigeon in a flock may be safer from most forms of predation. Flocks provide the advantage of extra eyes for spotting predators and offering escape tactics, especially relative to high-speed predators such as falcons. Stable social hierarchies are demonstrated in roosting and feeding flocks.

 Birds observed in the center of a feeding group obtained more food. Those birds had heavier
weights than peripheral, subordinate individuals. Intraspecific aggression occurs over nesting territories, nesting places, or roosting perches. The aggressor pecks at the head and especially against the orbital skin, and strong wing beats occur; seldom are fights over food. Pigeons drink by immersing the bill and sucking—a most unusual method in birds. Only sandgrouse, buttonquails,
mousebirds, and some finches drink this way. This behavior lets pigeons take water from the most meager sources. The gait of pigeons is peculiar because of bobbing head movements, so the head stays on the same level while the body moves. The post-breeding molt is a complete descendant one. Molt is very slow, sometimes taking up to 10 months, and is not suspended during breeding. In the domestic pigeon, the wing molt starts before breeding and is interrupted when the nestlings hatch; it ends in autumn and may be interrupted by winter. In the European turtledove, the post-breeding molt starts in July, but is interrupted by the onset of the migratory disposition (new feathers complete their growth and old feathers will not fall). Therefore, the wing will be complete during migration. The rest of the molt, especially that of the tail feathers, occurs in the winter quarter. Preening with the bill rearranges feather vanes and disposes of ectoparasites. Mites, ticks, flies, bugs, lice, and fleas can be found on pigeons. The birds may disperse down-powder over the feather. After the first filling of the crop with food, pigeons use food-digestion time for preening. Doves, in general, have songs that are used in three contexts, corresponding with territorial or sexual drives. The advertising or perch-coo, the nest-coo delivered at the nest or
potential nest site, and the bow-coo, when the male is displaying
to the female. The advertising role of coos may be demonstrated
in caged pairs of American mourning doves by counting coos of the males before and after the females are removed: a 10-fold increase in cooing has been noted in males bereft of their mates. Cooing rates dropped to previous levels if the females were returned and pair bond was restored. The sexual role of dove song has been demonstrated by playing tape-recorded coos to captive African collared doves: the ovaries of female doves grew at a faster rate when exposed to tape recordings than in females not exposed to playback. Females respond to conspecific sound alone, independent of visual stimuli produced by the live male. Although songs are generally associated with male doves, many female doves also sing. A male song may stimulate the female to produce nest calls, and it is her own song that stimulates gonadotrophic hormone production in the hypothalamus; the male coo thus sustains the female’s cooing, which in turn stimulates production of pituitary hormones that stimulate ovulation. Playback has also been used to demonstrate that juvenile American mourning doves may recognize the male parent by characteristics in his individual song: the male sings to nestlings during his nest visitations, and so enables his progeny to learn the characteristics of his voice.

Feeding ecology and diet
Frugivorous (fruit-eating) and granivorous (grain- and seed-eating) species show special adaptations of the digestive tract. In seasonal climates pigeons are forced to switch among different food types. The nutmeg or pied imperial pigeon picks nutmegs directly from trees. Delacour and Mayr note that the pigeons can ingest extremely large fruits with huge pits; pits are regurgitated after the pulp is worked off.

 Fruit doves feed on nutmegs as soon as the brownish shell has cracked open. The nut itself, often as large as the bird’s head, is taken out of the shell and swallowed completely. There is usually room for only one hard-pitted fruit in the stomach.The stomach wall rubs off the thin layer around the nut by the action of two antagonistic muscle pairs, and only this envelope is digested; the large pit passes out unharmed. Seeds are mostly pecked from the ground surface. Especially soft grass seeds are stripped off the stem. 

The Galápagos dove digs with its long decurved bill for very hard seeds in the soil. The persistence and eagerness in collecting seeds is remarkable. Gasow found in a crop of a wood pigeon 8,050 capsules and 6,479 seeds of stitchwort (Stellaria sp.), with 30 cherries, 72 fragments of clover leaves, and 10 scale insects. Leaves, grass stems, buds, and flowers are a substantial part of the diet of granivorous pigeons when seeds and mast are not in season. Small snails are often found in crops and stomachs, but it is not clear if this supplements the calcium demand or is eaten directly as animal food. Eberhard Curio published a figure of a Negros bleeding heart (Gallicolumba keayi) with grasshoppers in its bill. 

The atoll fruit dove (Ptilinopus coralensis) can live on treeless coral atolls of the Toamotu archipelago in the Pacific Ocean far east of Australia. The diet may be purely animal, consisting of insects and even small lizards. The Wonga pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca) from Australia is unusual among pigeons. Invertebrates (Blattodea and worms) form an important part of the diet. It has been observed scratching in leaf-litter like a gallinaceous bird and investigating lyrebird Menura display mounds in search of small snails, insects, and their larvae. Domestic pigeons will lower their body temperature under
conditions of extreme hunger after reducing locomotion. They store a small remainder of food in the crop and digest it before they awake in the morning to use the digestive heat (special dynamic adaptation) to warm their bodies.

Conservation status
About a third of all species are threatened according to the IUCN. Most problems occur with inhabitants of small, distant oceanic islands, where small populations exist that are put at risk by destruction of natural forested habitat. An exception to this was the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), which was found in North America from the great plains eastward to the Atlantic, and from southern Canada to northern Mississippi. It lived in forest and open lowland.

Owing to well-developed social tendencies, the species normally
congregated in large numbers all year, and stories from early North American settlers suggest that millions of these birds roamed the great eastern forests in spring, summer, and fall. They were well known for a southward migration in dense masses of billions of individuals. Dense breeding colonies in forests extended over miles (kilometers). Clutch of one egg. Breeding season in the wild extended from April to September, and in captivity beginning in February.

The cause of the rapid extinction of this species is a subject of contention. Some researchers believe passenger pigeons were relatively inefficient at reproduction, and persisted only by maintaining enormous flocks because their reproductive rate was so slow. The only seeming explanation for the passenger pigeon’s decline and fall is that more died each year than were produced. Major causes of mortality did not include men with guns and large appetites for squab and sport shooting.

In migration the birds made a great impression on watchers. The classic report of this spectacle is from famed American observer, John James Audubon: “I spotted a flock of passenger pigeons, and I realized that the number of pigeons in the flock was greater than I had ever seen before, and I decided to count them. I got off my horse, sat down and began to pencil a dot on a piece of paper for each bird that I saw. Soon I discovered that it was impossible to continue, for the birds were coming in huge groups. In 21 minutes I had made 163 dots. 

As I departed, the flocks grew still denser, and the air was literally filled with pigeons; they darkened the sun as
in an eclipse, and their droppings fell like snowflakes. The whistling of their beating wings could practically make one fall asleep. During the entire time I waited for my lunch in Young’s Inn, and I saw legion after legion fly by; the width of the group measured from Ohio to the forested areas as far away as one could see.”
 Audubon tried to estimate the number of pigeons that flew by and came up with an astronomical figure: 1.1 billion birds. Passenger pigeons flew together, fed together, and roosted together. They were subject to shooting and other forms of collecting especially at roosts, and it is as much a result of this inordinate tendency to flock as anything else that they were so easy to kill.

Decline in numbers was noted in the late 1700s and considered marked by 1850. Probably to this point the decline represented the pigeons’ response to cutting forests. The well-documented great slaughters occurred only after the railroad had pushed into the central part of the continent, making it possible to ship birds reasonably rapidly to the great consumer markets of the east. Millions of adults and young were taken in the 1860s and 1870s, and hundreds of thousands in the early 1880s, but by the mid-1880s the species was showing that the end was near. Predictably, exploitation of nesting and roosting colonies continued into the 1890s, apparently being profitable at least to the small operator. The last wild passenger pigeon was killed in Ohio, in March 1900;
the last captive, a bird hatched in captivity named Martha that enjoyed great popularity, died in September 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Pigeons as a game bird were hunted mostly by snare, by lime twigs, or by netting; eggs and nestlings also were collected. Pigeons as domesticated birds used for food, as pets, or for other purposes have played an important role in human history.

Significance to humans
Since ancient times pigeons have been domesticated and used as food and to transport messages.

Red Junglefowl

The Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a tropical member of the pheasant family. It is thought to be ancestral to the domestic chicken, with some hybridisation with the Grey Junglefowl.The Red Junglefowl was first domesticated at least five thousand years ago in Asia, then taken around the world, and the domestic form is kept globally as a very productive food source of both meat and eggs.(Wikipedia)

SUBFAMILYPhasianinae (Tribe Phasianini)

Phasianus gallus Linnaeus, 1758, Poulo Condor, Vietnam. Five subspecies.

English: Wild junglefowl; French: Coq bankiva; German: Bankivahuhn; Spanish: Gallo Bankiva.

Male 25–30 in (65–78 cm), female 16–18 in (42–46 cm); male 1.5–3.2 lb (0.7–1.5 kg); female 1.1–2.3 lb (0.5–1.1 kg).

Northern India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, southern Yunnan to Hainan Island, Southeast Asian peninsula, and Sumatra, Java,
and Bali.

Woodland edge and secondary scrub in tropical and sub-tropical areas from sea level to 6,560 ft (2,000 m).

Often seen in groups consisting of one male, several females, and offspring; roosts socially in trees or bushes.

Seeds, including rice, and invertebrates, including eggs.

Polygamous. Breeds almost year round in India and Malaysia; nests typically under bushes or in bamboo; clutch size five to six; incubation 18–21 days; chicks can fly at seven days.

Widespread and locally common.

The supposed progenitor of all domestic fowl, and therefore arguably the most important bird species of all to humans.


Bird tatto

If you are looking for bird tattoos for your next tattoo design then you have chosen a subject that is gaining popularity. Bird tattoos have evolved from the classic blue birds on a woman's shoulder or breast all the way through to the patriotic bald eagle. Whatever your preference in birds, you are certainly choosing a design that is classed as "evergreen," meaning it will not date and won't go out of fashion.

 Depending on your personality and preference, the choice of bird tattoos are limited only by your imagination. Finding a great tattoo artist will mean the difference between a very basic design and one that can be a true work of art. There have been bird tatts that have been placed on some parts of the body so that it looks like the bird is in flight. These are extremely attractive to many people and are a very popular design, depending on your tattoo artists ability to replicate the image.

 There have been some very detailed and effective bird tatts that have included each finger and the hand of the personality who requested it. As the hands are bought together and clasped they can form the wings of the bird and can look as though the wings are actually flapping. These are fantastic designs and a time consuming piece of art work.

If you are looking at bird tattoos then looking at as many different designs as possible should help you to decide which form you would like. Once you have chosen the type of bird, you can then concentrate on how you want that bird positioned, in flight, standing or soaring. Check out the other bird tattoos that your tattoo artist has done and this will give you an idea of what their capabilities are in completing your tattoo.



Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri (Oscines)
Family: Ploceidae

Thumbnail description
Small to medium-sized passerine birds; bill
conical or pointed; plumage plain yellow or
black, or these colors in combination with red,
brown, or orange, or else sparrowy brown; often
there is a seasonal change in plumage, which
may include development of greatly elongated
tail-feathers; many species highly social,
occurring in large flocks


4.3–10 in, up to 28 in with elongated tail
(11–25 up to 70 cm); 0.3–2.3 oz (9–65 g)

Number of genera, species
19 genera; 135 species

Forest, woodland, swamps, savanna, semi-arid

Conservation status
Critically Endangered: 1 species; Endangered: 6
species; Vulnerable: 7 species; Near
Threatened: 3 species; Data Deficient: 2 species

Sub-Saharan Africa, Arabian Peninsula, South and Southeast Asia, Madagascar,Mauritius, Réunion, Comoros, Seychelles.


The Ploceidae, or weavers, are small passerine birds related to the finches.These are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills, most of which are from Sub-Saharan Africa, with fewer species in tropical Asia. A few species have been introduced outside their native range.The weaver group is divided into the buffalo, sparrow, typical, and widow weavers. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season.

Weaver birds, also known as weaver finches, get their name
 because of their elaborately woven nests (the most elaborate of any birds'), though some are notable for their selective parasitic nesting habits. The nests vary in size, shape, material used, and construction techniques from species to species. Materials used for building nests include fine leaf-fibers, grass, and twigs. Many species weave very fine nests using thin strands of leaf fiber, though some, like the buffalo-weavers, form massive untidy stick nests in their colonies, which may have spherical woven nests within. 
The sparrow weavers of Africa build apartment-house nests, in which 100 to 300 pairs have separate flask-shaped chambers entered by tubes at the bottom. Most species weave nests that have narrow entrances, facing downward.

Physical characteristics
The weavers have no defining physical characteristics which are shared by all or even most members of the family.
The sexes may be virtually indistinguishable, even in the hand,
or highly dimorphic. Tails can be short or extravagantly long.
The bill is always straight, not curved, but varies from short
and heavy to longer and quite slender. At the sub-family level,
there is more consistency. Buffalo weavers are either mainly
black or mainly white, with heavy seed-eater bills. 


Sparrowweavers are all “sparrowy” brown in appearance, with some black or white plumage areas. There is no obvious seasonal plumage change in either of these groups, and little sexual dimorphism, although males are usually larger. Within the parasitic Viduinae, there is marked sexual dimorphism in plumage during the breeding season, after which males molt into a plumage which resembles that of the females. They can usually be disinguished from other small seed-eating birds by black stripes on the crown of the head. Male indigobirds are blackish, with pale or reddish bill and legs, in varying combinations. 


Male whydahs have mainly black or black-andwhite breeding plumage with very long central tail feathers, which may be either narrow or broadened. The male cuckoo finch is canary-yellow in breeding plumage. Among the Ploceinae, there are conspicuous differences between genera. Males are almost always larger than females, while sexual dimorphism in plumage is especially marked in polygynous species. However, even in dimorphic species, the males do not always have a seasonal plumage change. Eye color often changes with age from brown to red, yellowish, or creamy; in many cases only males have a distinctively colored eye. The bill color of male birds may change seasonally from brown to black, in response to increased levels of male sex hormones. The genus Malimbus is remarkably uniform. 


All species are predominantly black with some red, or in one case yellow, plumage; males and females differ in plumage, and juvenile birds have a distinctive plumage, different to both adults. There is no seasonal change in plumage. In contrast the open-country bishops and widows (Euplectes) all have sparrowy brown females, while males molt into a breeding
plumage which is wholly or partly black, with either red or
orange to yellow areas, and in some cases a long, black tail.
Young birds resemble females, and males do not usually acquire
breeding plumage until at least their second year. The large genus Ploceus includes species that are sexually dimorphic with or without a seasonal change in plumage, and species in which the sexes are identical. Black and/or yellow are the predominant plumage colors in males, with some green, brown, or orange, but never red, feathers.

Weavers occur throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where all sub families are represented. Only two genera of Ploceinae are found outside Africa; the fodies (Foudia) which are endemic to Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands, and Ploceus with two species on Madagascar and five in Asia. One East African species, Rüppell’s weaver (Ploceus galbula), also occurs on the Arabian peninsula.


 Several species are commonly exported as cage birds, and escapes or deliberate releases have led to their establishment, sometimes temporary, in other regions, including Australia, California, Portugal, Hawaii, St. Helena, and some islands in the West Indies. An Asian species, the streaked weaver (Ploceus manyar), is now established in the Nile delta in Egypt, and is believed to have escaped from Alexandria Zoo.

Many weavers are associated with water, since they breed
in wetlands, along rivers, dams, and lakes, nesting in reeds or
other waterside vegetation. However, in these cases they often
move to grassland or savanna during the non-breeding
season. Several species may breed in wetlands, but also in trees
far from open water, and have adapted well to man-modified
habitats such as farmland. 


Only members of the sparrowweavers

and buffalo weavers are permanent residents of arid and semi-arid areas. Some species are exclusively forest birds, either in lowland or montane evergreen forest, and may spend much of their time in the canopy 100 ft (30 m) above the ground. 

All members of the genus Malimbus are strictly forest inhabitants.

Although many species of weavers move about extensively
during the dry season, these are local movements rather than
predictable, long-distance migration. The red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea) does carry out predictable movements in many
regions, and these seem to be correlated with rainfall patterns.
This appears to be the only species that could qualify as a migrant
throughout its range. Although they may have a wide range of different calls, few weavers would be considered “songbirds” in the conventional sense. The songs that male weavers use to advertise their territories are often a harsh, repetitive chatter with no tuneful, musical notes. Some forest species do sing short phrases, sometimes as duets, which are more attractive to our ears.
The parasitic indigobirds learn elements of the song of their
host species while in the nest, and later incorporate these into the songs which they use in courtship.

Feeding ecology and diet
Categorizing weavers as insectivorous or granivorous is misleading. All species will take insects when they are available,
and the young are often fed primarily insects, especially in the first days after hatching. There is frequently a seasonal change in diet, with seeds the main or even the only food source in the dry season, and insects more important in the rainy season. The heavy bill of the grosbeak weaver (Amblyospiza albifrons) enables the birds to open sunflower seeds, but they have also been seen to catch small frogs. Small lizards are on the menu of several other species in the wild. Fruit an berries are eaten readily, and nectar from plants such as Aloe and Erythrina. Here weavers are messy feeders, often eating the whole flower and stripping the plants, leaving with their faces caked with pollen. The Cape weaver (Ploceus capensis) is probably the main pollinating agent for the endemic South African crane flower Strelitzia regina.

Conservation status
BirdLife International has produced a review of globally
threatened birds, and an account of the Important Bird Areas
of Africa. The major threat to weaver species is habitat loss,
since some of them have very restricted ranges. Three island
fodies are threatened both by habitat loss and introduced
predators on Mauritius, Seychelles, and Rodrigues, respectively.
Foudia rubra may be Critically Endangered, whereas F. sechellarum and F.


 flavicans are currently regarded as Vulnerable.The Asian yellow weaver (Ploceus megarhynchus) is a

grassland species with a restricted range in India. Although the Asian golden weaver (Ploceus hypoxanthus) occurs in several
countries, it is uncommon and regarded as Near Threatened.
On mainland Africa, the golden-naped weaver (P. aureonucha)
and the yellow-footed weaver (P. flavipes) are both
known only from the Ituri Forest, and have been seen just a
few times in the last 30 years. Their canopy habitat and the
political problems in this region make it difficult to obtain accurate information. Four localized species in West Africa,
Bannerman’s weaver (P. bannermani), Bates’s weaver (P.
batesi), the Gola malimbe (Malimbus ballmanni) and the Ibadan
malimbe (M. ibadanensis), occur in forest that is disappearing
rapidly throughout this region. The situation is most critical
for the Ibadan malimbe, which has the smallest range. Two
little-known species, the Loango weaver (P. subpersonatus) on
the coastal strip and the black-chinned weaver (P. nigrimentum)
in open savanna, range from Gabon southwards towards
Angola. In East Africa, Clarke’s weaver (P. golandi) is restricted to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya, while the Tanzanian
mountain weaver (P. nicolli) is found in relict forest patches
on the Usambara Mountains and a few other sites. Fortunately
both areas are now the site of active conservation programs.
Agricultural changes in the highland grasslands of Kenya are
a potential threat to Jackson’s widow, while Fox’s weaver (P.
spekeoides) is apparently confined to one lake system in central
Uganda, but remains unstudied. The Kilombero weaver (P.
burnieri) was a surprising discovery in Tanzania, described in
1990 and evidently limited to a small area.
Significance to humans
Several colonial weaver species are closely associated with
human settlements, nesting in exotic vegetation, and in
forested areas, taking advantage of habitat changes to colonize
new clearings. Eggs and nestlings may be utilized for
food on occasion, but often the relationship is quite harmonious.
The long tail feathers of breeding male long-tailed widows
(Euplectes progne) were once used as elements in traditional
head-dresses for warrior tribes in South Africa, but otherwise

the colored plumages have not been utilized.For hundreds of years, grain-eating weavers have been a
pest for farmers in Africa. M. Adanson, a French botanist for
whom the baobab genus Adansonia is named, spent several
years in Senegal from 1747, and reported that the inhabitants
suffered greatly from the depredations of the weavers. He described several traditional bird-scaring methods which are still
in use in Africa today. Since the 1960s the red-billed quelea
has been recognized as the major pest of cultivated cereals in
Africa. Despite international efforts to reduce its numbers, using
aerial spraying and fire-bombs set under roost sites, it remains
enormously abundant: in March 2000 the South African department of agriculture reported that an estimated 21 million
queleas had been killed in control operations during the past month! It seems that in the past, queleas bred prolifically in good years, and then starved when food supplies declined. Today when wild grass seeds are unavailable, they find crops a very acceptable alternative and consequently agriculture enables them to maintain high population levels.

 To the interested naturalist, a vast flock of queleas “roller-feeding” (in constant motion, with the birds at the back flying up over those ahead of them to be first at the untouched plants) is one of the great spectacles of Africa, but it is a catastrophe for the small farmer, and there is no simple, effective solution.



Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Suborder: Otidides
Family: Otidae

Medium size to very large terrestrial birds, with long legs and necks and fairly short straight bills.

15.75–47.25 in (40–120 cm); 1–42.2 lb (0.45–19 kg)

Number of genera, species
11 genera; 26 species

Level or gently undulating grasslands, steppes, semideserts, and open savanna woodlands.

Conservation status
Endangered: 3 species; Vulnerable: 1 species; Near Threatened: 6 species


Africa, southern Europe, south and Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia.

Evolution and systematics
Bustards are linked ancestrally to cranes and their relatives (Gruiformes). Genetic studies place them in their own suborder, Otidides, whose divergence from the Gruides is estimated at 70 million years ago. Although conspicuous courtship displays imply a link with cranes, the evolutionary isolation of bustards finds manifestation in various morphological anomalies. These include the absence of a hind toe and preen gland, hexagonal rather than transverse tarsal scutellation, and unique dense powder-down.
Taxonomic relationships within the family are contested. The large bustards are grouped in Otis, Neotis, and Ardeotis, and these are possibly related to the smaller Chlamydotis and Tetrax. Diminutive Tetrax, long combined with the far larger Otis by taxonomists, might be related to Sypheotides, to which it more closely equates in terms of size, flight-feather modification, and display. Some recent appraisals combine 14 relatively small species within the genus Eupodotis, but an alternative treatment retains only five species in this grouping, separating the remainder into Afrotis, Lissotis, Lophotis, Houbaropsis, and Sypheotides.

Physical characteristics
Bustards combine stout bodies carried horizontally with long legs and necks, the latter supporting flat-crowned heads and short, straight bills. As a result of an exclusively terrestrial lifestyle, they have no hind toe. They tend to escape danger by flying, and consequently their feet are relatively small, and their wings are large and strong. Mature male Otis and
Ardeotis bustards regularly reach over 3.3 ft (1 m) in height,
and as some approach 44 lb (20 kg), they are among the heaviest
of flying birds. 


In these genera, females tend to be twothirds
the height and one-third the weight of their respective
males. In smaller bustard species, the difference in size between
the sexes is less pronounced. Bustard plumage is largely cryptic: the upperparts are brown or finely barred, so that a crouching bird is camouflaged. The underparts are often white in open-country species, and sometimes black in species that inhabit taller vegetation (counter-shading being less of a consideration). Many species have patches of white and black in the wing that are concealed when standing or sitting but conspicuous in flight. Males are generally brighter or more strikingly patterned than females, at least in the breeding season, but sexes are similar in Eupodotis. In Otis, Ardeotis, Neotis, Chalmydotis, Lissotis, and Houbaropsis, males develop filamentous plumes that are used in courtship displays. The most elaborate are in Chlamydotis (elongated erectile piebald plumes on breast, neck, and crown), Otis (white moustachial plumes), and Sypheotides (long bare-shafted, spatulate-tipped cheek feathers).

Bustards are confined to the Old World. A glance at patterns of bustard diversity suggests that they originated in Africa, where 21 species occur. Sixteen of these are purely Afrotropical, and another two only fractionally enter the North African portion of the Palearctic region. Within Africa, there are two distinct centers of speciation. One is in East Africa, between the Horn and the Nile, the other is in southern Africa south of the Zambezi. Of four species with chiefly Palearctic distributions, two are widespread in Europe and Asia, with portions of their ranges in North Africa. One is entirely North African; another is almost entirely Asian, extending from Egypt and the Middle East to China (these two forms, the Houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata and Macqueen’s bustard C. macqueenii, are often treated as conspecific). Three more species are Oriental (all centered on the Indian subcontinent, one with an outlying population in Indochina), and one species is Australasian, occurring in Australia and southern New Guinea.

Bustards inhabit temperate and tropical semideserts, grassy plains, and open low-stature woodland. The majority (19 species) are most commonly associated with flat or gently undulating open landscapes, generally with vegetation sufficiently low to allow them a view over long distances. Many African bustards (Eupodotis, Lophotis, and Lissotis) tolerate varying degrees of wooded cover, including acacia woodland and thorny thickets, and the floricans (Sypheotides and Houbaropsis) are regularly found in tall grassland. 


A huge area of habitat suitable for bustards has been converted to cultivation, especially in Europe and the Indian subcontinent. Fortunately, many species tolerate nonintensively farmed land.

Most bustards are found walking slowly across open terrain. Several species are at least partially gregarious. The great bustard
(Otis tarda) has been recorded in groups of over 50, and nonbreeding aggregations of the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) can number in the thousands.

 The desert-adapted forms, such as Chlamydotis, are probably the most solitary. 


A few species gather at loose leks. Foraging bustards are regularly found near herds of grazing herbivores. Presumably they benefit from reductions in predation pressure or elevations in foraging success, as they hunt insects disturbed by the mammals. It is unlikely that any bustard species is entirely sedentary, and many are clearly nomadic or migratory.


 Those that breed in Asia undertake long distance migrations to escape harsh winters. The lesser florican (Sypheotides indica) performs regular migrations in response to rainfall in India, and the same is true of several African species.

Feeding ecology and diet
Bustards are omnivorous and opportunistic. Most species have a diet predominately of vegetable matter. They eat fresh shoots, flowers, and leaves of herbaceous plants; excavate for soft roots and bulbs; and take fruit and seeds when available. In cultivated areas they consume a variety of crops. Insects are also an important food, at least seasonally. 


The timing of breeding tends to synchronize chick emergence with maximum insect abundance. Although beetles and grasshoppers are the main invertebrate prey items, many other arthropods are taken if available. Bustards also consume small vertebrates such as reptiles and rodents, particularly those killed or injured in bush fires or traffic. Bustards can thrive without water for long periods, but drink freely when water is available.

Reproductive biology
The breeding season tends to coincide with periods of high rainfall. At its outset, males of many species perform magnificent displays, often from traditionally favored locations. In general, pair bonds between male and female bustards appear to be absent, as females visit displaying males and then leave to incubate the eggs and raise the chicks alone. 


Sexual maturation is slowest and sexual dimorphism most pronounced in species with dispersed leks or solitary territorial males: males take up to six years to reach full size and possess plumage ornamentation absent in females. The displaying great bustard selects an elevated site and
then inflates his gular sac and raises his tail, exposing white undertail-coverts. The inner secondaries are then twisted over and fanned so that, at the height of his splendid performance, having apparently turned himself inside out, the gleam of white plumage is visible several miles away. The kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) grossly inflates his neck plumage, cocks his tail, and emits a low booming call. Many smaller bustards, particularly those that inhabit taller vegetation, incorporate vertical display leaps or short flights into courtship behavior so that they are visible from a distance.
The nest is a bare scrape into which one to six (usually two to four) eggs are laid. Incubation is 20–22 days in the little bustard, 24–25 days in the great bustard, and presumably between these extremes in all other species. Incubation starts with the first egg, leading to asynchronous hatching. The precocial young (hatched covered with down and open eyes) can usually walk after a few hours.

Conservation status
In the face of agricultural intensification, pesticide use, hunting, and disturbance, bustard populations are falling and their distributions shrinking. Four species are currently considered Threatened: the widespread great bustard and all three bustards from the Oriental region.


 Six more bustards are treated as Near Threatened: little, Denham’s (Neotis denhami), Nubian (N. nuba), Houbara, little brown (Eupodotis humilis), and blue bustard (E. caerulescens). [This assessment treats Houbara and Macqueen’s bustards as conspecific.] All remaining large species are suffering declines and extinction at the local level. The most threatened species are the two floricans and the great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps). They are confined to India and Indochina, where heavy hunting pressure and degradation of suitable habitat has savagely reduced their populations.
Although small numbers of each of these species breed and survive within protected areas, their future hangs in the balance. In general, bustards are at greater risk than many animals because populations in all but the very largest reserves are not viable. Low population densities, and their nomadic or migratory lifestyles, mean that current protected area networks do not comfortably meet their needs.

Significance to humans
Bustards bring economic and ecological benefits. Depredation of insect plagues and other crop pests by bustards improves agricultural productivity, and they are likely to play an important role in seed dispersal. In return, most species have suffered grievously at the hands of man. A heavy toll is exacted in
regions by hunting, to the point that Asian populations face a serious threat of extinction. The most significant method is the use by Arabian dignitaries of trained falcons to hunt bustards. The modern version of “traditional” entourages, equipped with teams of falcons and the latest technology, trawl across Middle Eastern deserts for the Macqueen’s bustard. With numbers falling, the falconers have expanded their activities throughout North Africa, partly shifting their attention to Arabian (Ardeotis arabs) and Nubian bustards. A similar scale of persecution is reported from Cambodia, where Bengal floricans (Houbaropsis bengalensis) are a favorite source of food.