Great bustards have been already mentioned long time ago in older writings of Pliny the Elder as avis tarda, and in 1758 they were classified with their scientific name Otis tarda by Carl Linnaeus while the description tarda is Latin for slow and deliberate which is apt to describe the typical walking style of these possibly heaviest flying birds in the world who breed in southern and central Europe and across temperate Asia. European population are mainly resident, but Asian birds move further south in winter. Portugal and Spain now contain about 60 % of the world’s population (approx. 50,000 birds in total). The birds are often described as magnificent, stately birds because of the males’ great size, cocked tails and large white whiskers.
This species has suffered rapid population reductions across most of its range owing to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, as well as hunting leading to a complete extinction in Great-Britain already in the midst of the 19th century. In Germany around 200 birds are now living again at three different locations in the eastern part what means an increase of 400 % in relation to the bad situation in 1997. This is only possible by heavy intervention of ornithologists and nature conservationists who for example achieved that the new railway trail from Berlin to Hannover had to be redirected several years ago in order not to disturb the birds – meanwhile fenced areas have additionally been constructed at suitable locations as a protection for the birds because unfortunately, the great bustards are also a bit stubborn and conservative in their behavior what may be quite dangerous for a vulnerable species.
Single great bustard – photo: Andrej Chudy CC BY-SA 2.0
So the flexible and intelligent fox could normally always very easily steal their eggs while the great bustards simply do not take enough care of it. But these reserved islands here in Germany seem to be also a little bit like an outdoor-zoo hosting ornithological observation towers for bird watchers of all kind (one good observation point is situated for example near the city of Märkisch-Luch, urban district Garlitz, in the federal state of Brandenburg) but observation is normally only possible in early spring during the courtship displays. So you need always binoculars as the birds can only be watched in a minium distance of ca. 300 m.
Their distant relative – the crane – instead could be a good teacher in this regard who overflies each year the continents of this world in order to find the best places for survival. But when you do not cross the red lines of being, hence you will never know what is lying there behind the horizon of singularity. Even if you subsequently discover only a half-filled glass of water this is definitely always much better than a dried-up big river in front of your door.