The Houbara Bustard or the North African Houbara is a small to medium-sized bustard. It measures 22-26 inches in length and spans 53-67 inches across the wings. It is brown above and white below, with a black stripe down the sides of its neck. In flight, the long wings show large areas of black and brown on the flight feathers. It is slightly smaller and darker than the MacQueen’s bustard.
The Houbara Bustard is found in North Africa west of the Nile, mainly in the western part of the Sahara Desert region in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Some old records exist from Sudan. A small population is found in the Canary Islands. The Asian Houbara or MacQueen’s Bustard which was earlier included in this species occurs east of the Sinai Peninsula. The North African species is ‘sedentary’, unlike the northern populations of MacQueen’s Bustard.
Like other bustards, this species has a flamboyant display raising the white feathers of the head and neck and withdrawing the head. Two to four eggs are laid on the ground. It hardly ever uses its voice. This species is ‘omnivorous’, taking seeds, insects and other small creatures.
The North African Houbara bustard declined in population in the two decades before 2004, but, unlike its near relative, the Asian Houbara or MacQueen’s bustard, has been on the increase since. Although hunted, both by falconers and by hunters with gns, the extent is much less than that faced by MacQueen’s bustard in the Middle East and West Asia.
The International Foundation for Conservation and Development of Wildlife (IFCDW) is a major conservation and breeding project established with funds from Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and based near Agadir, Morocco. The centre releases captive-bred populations to boost wild populations. Similar projects breed MacQueen’s bustards, using artificial insemination are also carried out in the UAE.